The Exiles


Movie Review by Willard Manus

Thanks to UCLA Film & Television Archive's restoration work, a splendid but "lost" independent film from 1961 has been given new life. THE EXILES, a 60-minute b&w feature shot by Kent Mackenzie when he was a grad student at USC's film school, follows the lives of a group of Native Americans living in downtown L.A.'s Bunker Hill. Having been forcibly moved from reservation to city as part of a misbegotten federal relocation plan, the Indians were not only severed from their tribal roots but confronted by an unfamiliar and gritty urban existence.

Mackenzie, working on a miniscule budget with a volunteer crew, began shooting his film in 1958, using people from the Indian community as his actors. Working in 35mm, all he could afford were "short ends" of unused film stock, which meant he could rarely shoot more than a hundred feet at a time. When money and film kept running out, the production had to go on hiatus. THE EXILES wasn't completed until three years later, by which time one of its stars, Yvonne Williams, who was pregnant when shooting began, had given birth to that child plus two others.

Despite the many obstacles he faced, Mackenzie perservered and kept his project going. THE EXILES follows a group of friends over a 24-hour period, capturing the way they live, think and talk as they visit family, bar hop, drink, fight and flirt. Shot in documentary style, the film pulses with energy and gives voice to an embattled and long-throttled people. (