TE ATA – A Review by Cynthia Flores
I have to let you know about a great indie PG rated film that I just really loved. Most Indie films have to push the boundaries of good taste to stand out so a PG rated film that gets my attention is unusual.
Te Ate, you pronounce the film (TAY’ Ah-TAH), is based on the true story of Mary Thompson Fisher (Q’orianka Kilcher), a member of the Chickasaw nation born in 1895 near Emet, Oklahoma. Her father, T.B. Thompson (Gil Birmingham) was 100 percent Chickasaw and her mother Bertie (Brigid Brannagh) was Anglo American. Mary was raised as a Native American on the songs and stories of her Chickasaw tribe. She crossed cultural barriers at a time that it was illegal to display or even sell Native American artifacts or to partake of Native ceremonies. It was at the end of the Dawes era where they thought complete assimilation was the answer to the “Indian problem.” The movie does a great job showing the damage that kind of thinking caused.
The film shows how Mary took the stage name “Te Ata” which means “Bearer of the Morning” in order to spend the summer in a traveling show with her college friend accompanying her on the piano. It was on this summer of taking the stage and performing the stories of her people that her natural talent to share her culture came through. As she traveled, other tribe’s people heard about her and came to the shows and afterwards would share their stories with her and asked her to tell them to the world for them.
She eventually became an accomplished trained actress and made it all the way to the bright lights of Broadway. However, her ability to share her people's stories with anyone from children to famous adults like the then governor of New York's wife Eleanor
Roosevelt was what fed her soul. She told her boyfriend, Dr. Clyde Fisher (Mackenzie Astin), after a performance how she didn’t feel as fulfilled as she thought she would having reached her life's goal of being on the big stage. At his promoting, she took a break from Broadway and did an open air presentation of her native stories to a group of underprivileged children. And the rest is history as they say because she became one of the greatest storytellers of Native American stories of all time. The film shows how she was invited to perform her stories at the White House at the first state dinner for the new President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt.
This film was produced by the Chickasaw Nation and is a great example of Native Americans telling their stories of great leaders and what their people have endured. I can tell you this is not a perfect film. The first quarter of the film when Mary is young is a bit slow and has a White House, it switches gears and the whole quality of the film changes and could go toe-to-toe with any other great film about Native Americans that Hollywood has put out. For that reason I hope it finds its’ audience and that a new generation of kids and adults find out about Mary “Te Ata” Thompson Fisher. A proud, talented American Indian woman that would not let the world put her in a box or silence her voice. This is the kind of movie you can really take the whole family to see, so find it in theaters today and enjoy Te Ata.
Directed by Nathan Frankowski
Written By Jeannie Barbour, Esther Luttrell
Selig Rating B+
Running Time 1hr 45min
Biography / Drama
Limited Release Firewheel Town Center 18, Grapevine Mills 30, Parks at Arlington 18, Stonebriar Mall 24, Oct 3rd
Starring: Q’orianka Kilcher, Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene, Mackenzie Astin, Brigid Brannagh, Cindy Pickett, Jenni Mabrey
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.