My guest today is Jack Pettibone Riccobono, director of The Seventh Fire, a documentary about life on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota.
Joan Brunwasser: Welcome to OpEdNews, Jack. Why did you make this film?
Jack P. Riccobono: Hi, Joan. Thanks for having me. I think a lot of Americans - myself included before I made this film - have no idea about the situation in Indian Country or the fact that inner city gang culture is influencing many of these communities. And that's partially by design because many reservations are out of sight and out of mind. You almost never see mainstream stories about contemporary Native life, and when you do, they often employ stereotypes.
When I met my main subject Rob Brown six years ago, he was so compelling and complex. He defied the simple labels of "gang leader" or "ex-con" or "criminal" or "drug dealer"; he was someone with a deep connection to his Native culture but had also gone through 39 foster families as a kid, 12 years in prison, and was an active gang member for much of his adult life. He had a unique ability to reflect on his situation while in many ways still being trapped in it. So the simple answer is that Rob's story had never been told and it needed to be.
JB: Agreed. 39 foster homes; yikes! How hard was it to get Rob to sign on for the project?
JPR: We hit it off pretty quickly and he was willing to take the leap after our very first meeting six years ago. I think he was at a particular moment in his life where he was looking for a change and for something different. He was 34 years old and had never expected to live that long. And he recognized that doing this film was a unique opportunity. None of us knew exactly where it would lead. He had great instincts about the filmmaking process and learned very quickly how we approached shooting scenes and how he could facilitate production.