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Film adaptation of Portland author's award-winning Native novel shows at Scappoose Cinema 7

PHOTO COURTESY OF INYO ENTERTAINMENT - 'Neither Wolf Nor Dog,' the screen adaptation of  author Kent Nerburn's award-winning 1994 novel, will open in Scappoose this weekend. The independent film was shot near the Wounded Knee battle site and features a 95-year-old Native elder.

It's been 23 years since Portland author Kent Nerburn released his novel, "Neither Wolf Nor Dog," but this weekend, Columbia County residents can see the story come to life on film.

The award-winning book takes readers on a journey through Native American reservations and the site of the Wounded Knee massacre in South Dakota, where a white author (Nerburn) sets out to try to discover the stories and history of Lakota tribe elders. He meets an elder, "Dan," who shares old notes with him, but Nerburn soon learns the challenges of trying to understand the Native experience as an outsider, and gets a profound glimpse of the Native view of modern American culture.

The story was adapted to film thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign and is now being shown in select cities across Oregon, including Scappoose.

Chatting about the project from Poland, director Steven Lewis Simpson says nearly every approach to "Neither Wolf Nor Dog," has been unconventional.

With a tiny crowd-funded budget, an even smaller cast and crew, and a 95-year-old lead actor, Simpson says the film defies the odds.

"[Nerburn] struggled for about 23 years with Hollywood producers trying to get the film made," Simpson said. "We had to be very bare bones, but that allowed us an intimacy that really translates well with the audience."

Simpson says it took years to find the right actor to play Dan, but he found exactly what the story needed, and more, in the film's star, Dave Bald Eagle, a Lakota elder who grew up on a reservation and later served in the 82nd Airborne Division during World War II. Dave Bald Eagle died a few years after filming, at the age of 97.

Nerburn praises Simpson's take on his 20-year-old novel, calling it "an act of astonishing creative transformation."

"He? ?took? ?my? ?literary? ?child? ?and? ?made? ?a? ?man? ?of? ?it," Nerburn states in a press release. 

"There's some good films out there and there's some blockbusters," Simpson says, "but this film has heart and a 95-year-old put his heart on the screen."

"Neither Wolf Nor Dog" shows at Scappoose Cinema 7 starting Friday, Sept. 1.

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