© 2024 Public Radio Tulsa
800 South Tucker Drive
Tulsa, OK 74104
(918) 631-2577

A listener-supported service of The University of Tulsa
classical 88.7 | public radio 89.5
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Osage Nation, 'Killers of the Flower Moon' take center stage at Cannes Film Festival

JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers and Jillian Dion in "Killers of the Flower Moon."
JaNae Collins, Lily Gladstone, Cara Jade Myers and Jillian Dion in "Killers of the Flower Moon."

Killers of the Flower Moon and the Osage Nation took center stage at the Cannes Film Festival this past weekend.

While the film is not in competition at the festival for the prestigious Palme d'Or award, it was one of a handful of films highlighted along with the new Indiana Jones movie Dial of Destiny.

Killers of the Flower Moon received a nine-minute standing ovation at the end of its premiere on Saturday night.

Both Lily Gladstone and Leonardo DiCaprio received rave reviews from entertainment press for their portrayals of Mollie and Ernest Burkhardt. Their relationship was central to the movie, which is based on David Grann’s bestselling book about the brutal Osage murders in the 1920s over headright money and land.

The film is directed by Martin Scorsese and stars DiCaprio, Gladstone and Robert De Niro.

Osage citizens reacted online to the reviews, the fanfare at Cannes and the televised red carpet where Osage citizens walked up in traditional dress.

Osage Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, and other Osage citizens— including Yancey Red Corn and Talee Red Corn — walked down the red carpet in Cannes amidst a sea of cameras, onlookers and celebrities. So did the Indigenous actors in the film, including Tatanka Means, who plays the FBI agent John Wren, Cara Jade Myers, who portrays Anna Kyle Brown, Tantoo Cardinal, who plays Lizzie and JaNae Collins, who plays Rita Smith.

Osage citizens who attended said they're glad the film is being shared with international audiences.

Moira Red Corn came to support her brother Yancey Red Corn, who played Kihekah Bonnicastle in the film. She said she loved seeing Indigenous representation on the red carpet.

"You know, it felt natural. Like, oh, of course we should be here," said Red Corn.

Restoring trust

Since the trailer dropped last week, Osage people have been thinking hard about the mood and tone. Standing Bear said he still had some anxietyabout how the culture, language and murders would be portrayed.

"That was always a concern," Standing Bear said.

The film features Gladstone, De Niro and DiCaprio speaking the Osage language, as well as a wedding scene and a naming ceremony. Vann Big Horse, who consulted on the language and culture, said the actors worked really hard on learning it and Scorsese consulted on every detail about the film.

The courtroom and interrogation scenes were also vetted by Trent Shores, the former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma, who is a Choctaw citizen.

Moira Red Corn said after Scorsese read her father's book, A Pipe for February, the focus of the film changed from the creation of the FBI to the Osage people

"Marty read it and Leo read it and Lily read it, and they came back, and they're like, this is a bigger story," said Red Corn.

The movie does incorporate some of Charles Red Corn's book. In the opening scene, a pipe is buried and people are wailing and mourning over the loss.

"It was amazing…I feel like it was Dad's life work [was] that book in many ways, because these are the stories from his childhood," said Red Corn.

Scorsese spoke at a press conference and to KOSU after the screening, and said the process of reworking the script also involved meeting with members of the Gray Horse District and hearing their stories and concerns.

"I think the audience is ahead of us. They know it's not a whodunit — it's who didn't do it," Scorsese told reporters.

Gladstone said having Osage participation was key.

"We're artists, we're storytellers," Gladstone told reporters. "We reach into the humanity, and Native peoples are used to having anthropologists come and curious about everything that we do. These artistic souls on the stage here cared about telling a story that pierces the veil of what society tells us we're supposed to care about."

Standing Bear also took questions from reporters and was asked what it was like having this story premiere on the world stage.

“Early on, I asked Mr. Scorsese, ‘how are you going to approach the story?’ And he said, ‘I'm going to tell a story about trust. Trust between Molly and Ernest, trust between the outside world and the Osage, and a betrayal of that trust," Standing Bear said. “And my people suffered greatly. And to this day, to this very day, those effects are with us. But I can say on behalf of the Osage: Martin Scorsese, he and his team have restored trust. And we know that trust will not be betrayed.”

Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist for KOSU