Bennie Klain’s documentary short focuses on the controversy surrounding 2007’s centennial edition of the Columbus Day parade in Denver, Colorado. While the local Italian-American community saw the parade as an affirmation of its ethnic heritage and its long struggle to win social acceptance (the Denver event was the first of its kind in the United States), the local American Indian population viewed the veneration of Columbus as a celebration of the destruction of the continent’s indigenous population by European invaders.
The parade organizers seem genuinely baffled by the brouhaha, and one parade officer pointedly asks, “It’s two hours once a year, what’s the big deal?” For the American Indian activists, however, the parade is seen as continuing a history of racist policies against tribal communities – and it doesn’t help that the 2006 parade included historic re-enactors dressed as the U.S. Cavalry unit responsible for the hideous 1864 Sand Creek Massacre of the Cheyenne Indians. The two sides have no common ground except the parade route, with the Italian-American marchers staking out streets claimed by American Indian protestors.
Klain, a Navajo filmmaker, does a fine job in capturing the stridency and anguish surrounding the event. The resulting film is sad, disturbing and deeply profound.