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Review: ‘On Sacred Ground’ is an eye-opening film on Standing Rock

“On Sacred Ground,” directed by husband-and-wife duo Josh and Rebecca Tickell, is an eye-opening and thought-provoking film on Standing Rock.

'On Sacred Ground'
'On Sacred Ground.' Photo Courtesy of Big Picture Ranch
'On Sacred Ground.' Photo Courtesy of Big Picture Ranch

“On Sacred Ground,” directed by husband-and-wife duo Josh and Rebecca Tickell, is an eye-opening and thought-provoking film on Standing Rock.

The cast includes William Mapother, David Arquette, Amy Smart, David Midthunder, Irene Bedard, Kerry Knuppe, Frances Fisher, Irene Bedard, and Mariel Hemingway. The actors all deliver resonant and compelling performances all around, and they shed light on Standing Rock (the goal is to stop the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline).

It was produced by Rebecca and Josh Tickell, Joanelle Romero, William Mapother, Mark Sims, and John Paul DeJoria. It premiered in select theaters and On Demand on January 13, 2023.

Particularly impressive about “On Sacred Ground” is that it’s the first scripted film narrative that deals with Standing Rock, and it raises awareness on many significant issues. They are able to introduce these injustices to the mainstream, in a raw and unflinching manner.

“On Sacred Ground” is a drama about a conflict as old as America itself. Big Picture Ranch has a profound mission, to use filmmaking to reverse climate change before it is too late.

Most importantly, it has a message of hope and healing, where everybody can unite on this cause. All these people came together: the indigenous actors, the people that have been in Standing Rock, and other people that cared about the issue. They came together in the mid-winter and they were a part of the creative filmmaking process.

As part of the unique release of “On Sacred Ground,” Josh Tickell and Rebecca Tickell’s Big Picture Ranch will also screen the film on over 1,000 college campuses, as a means of promoting its underlying message of equality and the importance of upholding indigenous rights.

“On Sacred Ground” follows Daniel (William Mapother), a journalist and Afghanistan War military veteran, and Elliot (Arquette), an oil company executive, who find themselves on opposite sides of the fight during the 2016 construction of the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs through the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, land that is owned by the Lakota “Sioux” Tribe. 

As the story unfolds, Daniel starts to align himself more with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe than the oil company he was hired to write about favorably, and the two characters go down separate paths as the events unfold during one of the most heated protests and confrontation with Native American tribes in modern U.S. history.

Protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline occurred at several places because of concerns about its impact on the environment and to sites sacred to Native Americans. Indigenous nations around the country opposed its construction, along with the Sioux tribal nations.

In North Dakota, next to and on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, nearly 15,000 people from around the world protested, staging a sit-in for months. The film draws on their personal experiences as well as actual footage shot during the protests.

The filmmaking duo also consulted with Lakota tribal members and indigenous film producers to ensure the depiction of events in the film accurately told their story.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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