Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wyoming filmmaker: Documentary on Peltier


http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/article_64f69576-91f4-11de-bd56-001cc4c002e0.html
Cody filmmaker focuses on activist convicted of murder
RUFFIN PREVOST
Billings Gazette

Wyoming Bureau Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 9:50 pm
Photo: Preston Randolph Park County filmmakers Preston Randolph, left, and Derrick McGuire attend a rally in Pennsylvania earlier this month during the parole hearing for Indian activist Leonard Peltier, who was convicted in 1977 for the murder of two FBI agents. The two men are making a documentary about Peltier’s case.
CODY - Two Park County filmmakers are working on a documentary they hope will draw attention to the case of Leonard Peltier, an Indian activist serving two life sentences. He was denied parole last week."I've always known about the Peltier case, because I grew up hearing about it," said Preston Randolph, 19, of Cody.
"About a year ago, I decided to do something more meaningful in my work and my life. And in talking to Leonard's family, I thought that something more needs to be done," said Randolph, who has spent several months working on the film.
Peltier, 64, was convicted in 1977 for the murder of FBI agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams during a shootout on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
His case has attracted widespread attention from supporters who say he was denied a fair trial and that the government engaged in misconduct in his arrest and prosecution. The FBI and federal prosecutors deny any wrongdoing and point to numerous unsuccessful appeals by Peltier, including to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Peltier has acknowledged that he participated in the shootout but continues to deny that he fired the fatal shots in the execution-style murders of Coler and Williams.
With the denial last week of Peltier's parole request, his next hearing is scheduled for 2024, when he would be 79.
"I'm extremely disappointed, but unfortunately, I'm not terribly surprised," said Derrick McGuire, 19, a sound engineer attending Northwest College who is working with Randolph on the film project. The two men traveled together to Pennsylvania earlier this month to document Peltier's parole hearing."We're going to try to just keep informing people of the whole situation. It isn't going to stall our work at all. We're going to try to get this out as soon as we can," McGuire said.
Randolph said he is passionate about Peltier's case, and while his film will take a fair look at all the facts, his research has convinced him that Peltier should be released."I've been writing to Leonard for six months, and talking to his relatives for probably about a year," he said."I want to show that personal side to this story, to show his family and how it's affected them, him being in prison for 34 years," he said.While in high school, Randolph won awards for his short films in three consecutive Wyoming State Film Festivals, and he has spent time in Los Angeles participating in filmmaking courses and working on video productions.
He plans to travel throughout the winter, filming interviews with sources involved in the Peltier case and hopes to have a finished, full-length documentary by the end of summer 2010.Randolph said his film will serve as a follow-up of sorts to the 1992 documentary, "Incident at Oglala," narrated by Robert Redford.
That film raised awareness about Peltier's case, but additional information and developments since then warrant further scrutiny, he said.
Ed Woods, a former FBI special agent, said some books and documentaries about Peltier's case have "focused on the mythology" but have not shown convincing evidence of his innocence."The jury heard it all and came to their conclusion. And since then, every aspect of the case has been reviewed over and over," said Woods, who had no connection to the 1975 shootout, but started a Web site to present an opposing voice to Peltier's supporters."Was it a perfect case? Probably not. But for those who take the time and do the research and see the evidence, once you get beyond the myth and folklore, there's not a whole lot there," he said.Randolph said he has been surprised by the reaction of many around Park County who are sympathetic to Peltier's cause after hearing about the project."We live in a very conservative, law-and-order area of the country, but I have found a lot of people who surprisingly side with my point of view around here," he said, adding that he is spending his own money on travel and production expenses."I'm not doing this for money or fame. I'm very passionate about the story of Leonard Peltier and what happened then on the reservation, as well as what continues to happen now," he said.Contact Ruffin Prevost at rprevost@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.

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