A Case Study of Indigenous Representation in Film Music: Smoke Signals and Dances with Wolves
D'Amata, Stephanie Anne
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This thesis explores the representation of North American Indigenous cultures through film music of the 1990s. I use two films as case studies: a Hollywood-produced film Dances with Wolves (1990) and an independent film by an Indigenous filmmaker Smoke Signals (1998). My analysis of the films examines elements of film, such as mise-en-scne, cinematography, editing, and form, as well as musical cues, instrumentation and melodic/rhythmic motifs. The combination of these analyses allows me to consider how meanings about Indigenous cultures are communicated to viewers. I consider the following research questions: How are North American Indigenous cultures represented in film? How do Indigenous filmmakers choose to represent Indigenous culture in comparison to non-Indigenous filmmakers? What can be said about agency, representation, commercialization, and cultural expression through each filmmakers visual and musical choices? I find that music is integral to constructing meaning in films, and that representations of Indigenous cultures, through both music and visual cues, differ significantly across time and film genres.