The equally inspiring and enraging documentary “100 Years” emerges as a portrait of one remarkable rabble-rouser, the late Native American activist Elouise Cobell.
If you’re unfamiliar with the 21st century plight of Native Americans at the hands of the U.S. government, prepare to get mad, and ask questions. That’s exactly what Cobell, a Blackfeet woman and banker from Montana, did when she realized that the trust managed by the government to manage the leasing of Native American lands for natural resources appeared to have some murky accounting practices.
It turns out they were illegal and exploitative of a vulnerable, poverty stricken population who were beholden to the paternalistic government practices that expected them to be “good little Indians.” Cobell, the great-granddaughter of Blackfeet warrior Mountain Chief, filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of her people and their ancestors. The litigation and legislative fight lasted from 1996 to 2009.
At a swift 76 minutes, “100 Years” (the title refers to the time Native Americans lived under the conditions of the trust), director Melinda Janko efficiently communicates both the endless legal battle and the frustrating bureaucratic red tape, but also the human elements of the story. It illustrates Cobell’s motivation in her dedication to this cause, and the urgency with which she fought her battle against the government. It’s a maddening but ultimately uplifting tale about a fearless woman who fought tirelessly for her people.
Running time: 1 hour, 16 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica