Incident at Oglala

Director: Michael Apted

Institute History

  • 1992 Sundance Film Festival


Reconstructing history to discover truth is the basis of any trial. It’s a difficult process, resting on often-conflicting testimony and memories and rarely reaching a clear resolution. It seems even more ephemeral when the reconstruction is undertaken sixteen years after the fact. Given these difficulties, Incident at Oglala is a compelling achievement because of its comprehensiveness and balance.

Leonard Peltier has been in jail for almost fifteen years, convicted, after the biggest manhunt in FBI history, of killing two FBI special agents and another Native American in a shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in June 1975. By revealing the circumstances of the incident, the terror under which most people on the reservation lived, and the relentless persecution with which the government pursued its case, the film discloses what seems to be a gross miscarriage of justice. Apted uses eyewitness testimony and interviews with legal sources on both sides to document the case. In addition, after months of effort, the filmmakers were able to interview Peltier, who sheds needed new light on what happened. Incident at Oglala raises significant questions about this case and also about the possibilities of justice for anyone who rebels against government authorities.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details


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