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Tunica-Biloxi Tribe distances film from Hollywood producer accused of assault





The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe and the producers of the critically-acclaimed Wind River film have cut ties with a prominent Hollywood executive who has been accused of numerous incidents of sexual assault.

Deadline Hollywood first reported the development last month. Harvey Weinstein and his former company, The Weinstein Company, are no longer linked to the film and all future distribution royalties Weinstein would have received are now going to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

“We are in utter shock -- this is an amazing and completely out of the blue development for NIWRC,” Lucy Simpson, the organization's executive director, said in a press release.

With Weinstein out of the picture, Acacia Entertainment, the tribe's finance and production company, has agreed to fund promotional efforts for the film, Deadline Hollywood first reported. Critics have suggested the film could be a contender in the upcoming Oscars award season.

“We remain committed to ending gender-based violence and restoring safety to Native women and children, and are so thankful to Taylor Sheridan, Acacia Filmed Entertainment, and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe for this opportunity to further our work,” Simpson said. Taylor Sheridan is the writer and director of the film.

Wind River is notable because it is the first major Hollywood vehicle whose plot revolves around missing and murdered indigenous women and the difficulties faced in prosecuting crimes in Indian Country. Being tied to Weinstein, who has been repeatedly accused of sexually assault, sexual harassment and rape in incidents going back decades but has not been charged with any crimes at this point, was too much for the film's producers to bear.

"We feel like this was taken under false pretenses, especially if anyone knew what the guy at the head of this company was up to and given the subject matter of our film, it's just horrendous," producer Matthew George told The Associated Press. "You should have never taken a film that is shining a light on the very subject that this guy is guilty of perpetrating."

The Tunica-Biloxi Tribe largely funded the budget for the film through a $16 million loan that was guaranteed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The project was mentioned in an internal review that found numerous problems with the way the program is managed by the agency and its staff.

According to the Office of Inspector General at the Department of the Interior, the staff that reviews loans for credit-worthiness recommended against approving the tribe's project. But the person in charge approved it anyway "without formally documenting his rationale for disregarding the recommendation," the report, which was made public on Monday, stated.

Though a subsequent section in the report about the project is redacted, the tribe does not appear to have run into any problems with the loan. According to The New York Times, Acacia Entertainment financed about 90 percent of film's budget, which Deadline Hollywood said was just under $10 million.

“It is time that Native peoples begin telling their own stories, or helping to facilitate the telling of the stories that have affected their communities and continue to do so," tribal council member Brenda Lintinger said in the NIWRC press release. "The plight of Native women, whether the abuse is sexual, emotional, physical, or a combination of these, must be considered in the analysis of how women and young girls are victimized as well as the absence of justice when these crimes are committed."

The film features a largely Native cast, though not in the two primary roles. It was set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, home to the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe, though it shot in neighboring Utah.

Read More on the Story:
The 'Wind River' filmmakers take control back from Weinstein (The Associated Press November 16, 2017)
Weinstein Name Stripped From ‘Wind River’; Tunica-Biloxi Tribe Financiers To Pay For Oscar Campaign (Deadline Hollywood October 25, 2017)
Harvey Weinstein’s Name Will Be Stripped from a Film About Sexual Abuse (Vanity Fair October 25, 2017)
Weinstein name to be scrubbed from 'Wind River' (Screendaily October 25, 2017)

Office of Inspector General Report:
Stronger Internal Controls Needed Over Indian Affairs Loan Guarantee Program (November 2017)

Related Stories:
Charles Kader: 'Wind River' film trafficks in marginalized death in Indian Country (August 17, 2017)
Film set on Wind River Reservation boasts Native cast and tribal financing (August 3, 2017)