Michael Spears as Bud 'One Bull' Ward in 'The Activist.'

Michael Spears on 'The Activist,' Political Thriller Set in AIM Heyday

Adrian Jawort

Lakota actor Michael Spears will be hosting the Awards portion of 38th annual American Indian Film Festival this week in San Francisco, where he’s also been nominated for best supporting actor for his role in The Activist. In the film he portrays an American Indian Movement member during the turbulent 1973 Wounded Knee occupation. An intense political thriller directed by French director Cyril Morin, the film also includes Native co-star Tonantzin Carmelo-Best (Tongva and Kumeyaay), known for her role as Thunder Heart Woman in Steven Spielberg’s Into the West miniseries.

The Activist screens tonight (Sunday) at 7 PM at the Delancey Street Theater in San Francisco. For more information on the film, see its page at the AIFF website and TheActivistFilm.com.

What's the plotline of The Activist?        

Although it's fiction, they did find weapons grade uranium under the Black Hills -- this film is based off an actual report called the Sacrifice Zone that President Nixon signed off on. So it’s about two fictional characters wrapped up in the middle of it, but they do embody a lot of real life people that went through a lot of hardships from being torn from their families to being harassed by the federal government and agents. I don’t want to give away the whole movie! In the end there’s a shocker and some characters don’t make it, but it embodies the whole AIM. It’s hard, and it’s about fighting against a government that wanted to exterminate us since its founding.

How did French director Cyril Morin handle the AIM-related material?

He pretty much does only movies with a cause. He felt compelled to do this because it was a story that seems to be forgotten. It’s also about love, politics, and sacrifice. I got to work with him a little bit in the studio for the soundtrack, so you get to hear some of my music. [Michael Spears and his brother Eddie play in the Bear Canyon drum group. --Ed.]

Can you tell about your character, Bud "One Bull" Ward?

He embodies The Activist. He starts off as a rebel, and later you find out that he started an Indian immersion school and had that taken away from him. As a result he turns to the American Indian Movement as way to fight the problems that existed at Pine Ridge prior to 1973.

He’s pretty raw, and I can relate to the character. You can see a little bit of me in the character. He’s fierce, he doesn’t take no shit, and yet he has a calm about him at times that turns inward and doesn’t let a lot of emotions out. At the end of the film, you can see some of those raw emotions come out. I’m pretty proud of the film.




K TwoEagles's picture
K TwoEagles
Submitted by K TwoEagles on

I lived and went to school in South Dakota 69~74. I haven't seen the movie but I was in state, (Rapid, Rosebud, and Custer) I do remember !

Connie BigEagle 's picture
Connie BigEagle
Submitted by Connie BigEagle on

As I watched Tatanka carry his father Russell Means cremated remains into the gymnasium at his funeral, it dawned on me, this man so stood for something...and so did all that stood beside him. They stood up for what they believed in. Not many people can say the same. They knew they were outnumbered and supplies were scarce. They knew what happened to their Ancestors that came before them. They knew they were outnumbered and there were as many of them as there were stars in sky. They had a Voice and they werent afraid to use it and if anything they made sure it was heard. They did not stand passively by not even against the United States of America. How many of us can say the same?? How many Nations can say the same? their story must be told. Your father was there Michael and my prayers are with you on your journey in this and with your father Pat Spears in the next.
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Connie BigEagle

Melinda Bocook's picture
Melinda Bocook
Submitted by Melinda Bocook on

I will be there to watch this one. It looks like a very good movie, and puree truth.