Blauvogel

This film from 1979 is one of the many westerns produced by the DDR (East Germany) to provide an alternative history of the American West.  In this case the story is set in 1850 and it is the British who are colonising Ohio, taking land from the Indians.  A raiding party takes the young son of a family making its home in the backwoods. He is to be the replacement for a dead son and will be raised as a boy in the tribe.

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After an initiation ceremony, he is accepted as an ‘Indian’ and, although initially a reluctant addition to the tribe, he grows up to accept his place.  When in young adulthood he faces the choice of returning to the white folks, he has a dilemma about where he belongs.

The film is in German throughout which makes the British scenes interesting, but the story does avoid making one side the ‘goodies’ and the other the ‘baddies’; this was the sort of thing I was used to as a child.  The British soldiers, when captured by a combination of French soldiers and the Indians, are treated cruelly.  The young boy witnesses their treatment and is relieved to be spared.  On the other hand, the community into which he is accepted is caring and his upbringing is loving. How a young man is supposed to reconcile this life across two very different cultures is hard to know.

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This is a film to make you think about what builds an identity and where loyalty should lie. It also addresses issues of when a person switches allegiance. Is it when you know the new group meet your needs?  Is it all to do with familiarity?  Is it indoctrination?

‘Blauvogel’ is in my hinterland.  What’s in yours?

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