Heather Rae's Trudell was twelve years in the making, but the resulting portrait of Native American activist (and one-time chairman of the American Indian Movement) John Trudell is out of focus. Emulating Oliver Stone, Rae shuffles film stocks, splices stock footage, and layers Trudell's recordings of spoken-word and music in ways that are sometimes hallucinatory but more often histrionic.
Rae spends so much time indulging Trudell's so-so poetry that we learn less than we'd like about his activist history, which includes the 1969 protest occupation of Alcatraz, the deadly standoff later explored in Michael Apted's Incident at Oglala, and a suspicious fire that wiped out Trudell's immediate family just twelve hours after burning a U.S. flag on the steps of the FBI headquarters (one thing is known: the FBI called Trudell "extremely eloquent...therefore extremely dangerous" and amassed a 17,000-page dossier on him).
Rae pads the 80-minute film with the glazed reverence of Trudell's celebrity friends: Robert Redford, Jackson Browne, Val Kilmer, Kris Kristofferson, Sam Shepard, and Bonnie Raitt (note also Angelina Jolie among the executive producers). The most lasting impression comes from archival footage of Trudell telling it like it is about so-called "civilization." When Trudell expounds on his political philosophies, the film is fascinating, but Rae lets style obscure substance.