Video: “Why Hamlet?”

cropped-hamlet-title-steel-2015.jpgThe story of Hamlet is about the indecisive nature of a young man when presented with various facts about the death of his father. It is a story always told in the rigid nature of the stage, played out by a specific type of actor that typically tend to fit the part of a Danish nobleman in his early-30’s.

What if we were to take that story and conform it to the collective narrative of a Native American society in modern times? For so long the culture, motifs, words, even the very face of Native peoples have been appropriated into the media of American culture, Anglo culture, but what if a lone Northern Arapaho and his crew were to commit the most grievous sin of cultural appropriation, but in the reverse direction? What if we took something that is the epitome of Anglophilia and make it into a Native story?

As with many Native American stories, it begins with a ghost: a ghost that tells his living son that his own brother murdered him and took his wife and his crown, and does the most unthinkable thing any father could do – he asks his only son to avenge him, to mete revenge upon his own blood! That is the tale at the heart of Hamlet, which is why he is so decisive in the story. But all of this lie in a larger backdrop of intermingled corporate greed and political dealings that almost seem to blot out the core of our narrative.

Young Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway is plotting to take back the lands lost by her father in the old wars, whereupon it was agreed, that if Old Hamlet were to die, the lands are to revert to the control of Norway. But Claudius, the uncle of Hamlet and new king, has not only usurped the throne from his nephew, but also usurped the claim of Fortinbras.

This Hamlet takes place in an alternate future of despotic oligarchies – a future where corporations have arisen to become their own nation-states. At the head of these Corporations are rich families that run territories like the mafia and big business with hired armies at their disposal.

Hamlet’s main motivation is to quit this world, to renounce his birthright. After his father’s death, he is ready to honor his father’s agreement with Norway Group and settle into a quiet married life with Ophelia. But Claudius’ usurpation disrupts that plan.

These threads can be explored in a real world Native cultural sense. I am simply asking to help to finish this film. No one has ever adapted Shakespeare in such a way. Even Native people have never thought to conform it to a modern Native sensibility.

Something too much in this.

Here I present a short video about why I decided to make a no-budget, full-text, full-length contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” that features an all-Native American cast.

Written, Voiced, Edited & Produced by
Ernest M Whiteman III


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