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Sundance 2020 Review: "Little Chief" (2020) ★★★


School, for most children, is their second home where the teacher plays a crucial role in putting the fundamentals of personality into a child only an open society can offer. However, what if the same child does not feel comfortable both at school and at home? Who can step up and help the little one to go through the impossible situation?

“Little Chief”, set in Oklahoma, follows the lives of Sharon, a native woman, and a nine-year-old boy named Bear whose lives intersect within a short period of time but enough for the two to bond, get to know each other, and become a role model. As the two navigate through the day, the boy’s emotions will explode while Sharon will be left alone to not chase when Bear runs away but to begin understanding and start asking the right questions for him to begin the healing process.

From writer/director Erica Tremblay, the film provides an insight into the lives of two indigenous people, their struggles, and a connection they share. When we meet Bear, he is upset as he walks alone to school. It’s the exact time when we meet Sharon, his teacher, who offers him a ride. She, as we begin to learn, knows about his abusive father and, overall, is aware of his young and turbulent life. Once they reach the school and lessons start, Bear has been harassed by his classmates too, making it difficult for him to recover from his home’s unhealthy situation at school.

Having that said, “Little Chief” is a compelling short film that teaches us humanity, compassion, and empathy. If not for Sharon, there was no way for us to predict where Bear would end. By the time the end credits rolls, we still don’t know. But you will be left hopeful, not because of the exceptional writing of Erica Tremblay, but the power she gave Sharon to exercise the most important human quality she has – being humane.

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