CUFF 2021: End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock Review

“A nation isn’t defeated until the hearts of the women are on the ground.”

The struggle over land and water at Standing Rock shows the true degradation of human morality. There are those in power who believe that money and industry are more important than people. There are those who will willingly fire upon, blind, and attack others who stand up to tyranny because they know that this belief is wrong. And there are people who are so cowardly, they will celebrate their ability to close their eyes while signing a declaration to continue building a pipeline which desecrates land and threatens clean water for millions of people.

End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock has one clear word for these people: NO!

End of the Line tells the story of a group of Indigenous women who established the peaceful camp at Standing Rock, in order to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, a $3.8 BILLION (!) pipeline that would snake its way through the Standing Rock Reservation, and under the Missouri River. The film traces the struggles that these leaders face, including authoritarian intervention and political ambivalence, and explores their connection to this sacred land, the perpetuation of colonial violence and cruelty, and the various attempts to stop the pipeline’s construction.

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Although the strength that these women exhibit is unfathomable, the film also shows the toll that their resistance takes on them. It is exhausting, at times crushing, but there is no alternative, and they are undeterred in their quest to do what is right.

End of the Line wants you to get angry, but it doesn’t want you to be blinded by this rage. Instead, it’s meant to open your eyes. To reveal the humanity—and humans—behind these protests, the women on the ground who stayed through the cold, the brutality, and the broken promises. And it is a beautiful film, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes infuriating, but always inspiring. Whether filming the women at home or entrenched in the most dangerous altercations at Standing Rock, Shannon Kring’s direction is respectful and observant. There is no pretence or pretension in the filmmaking. It is clear, dedicated, and most importantly, it listens. And I wish more documentaries would do the same.

The film is a testament to resilience, to women, and to a powerful history that refuses to be silenced by centuries of oppression and devastation. It’s not so much a film as a document. It’s shows the truth. And while this truth may be difficult for some to comprehend, it is essential. It must be seen, and it must be shared.

I can easily tell you about the scenes from the film that moved me, that enraged me, that caused my stomach to turn and my eyes to sting. I can tell you about moments or stories or people, but none of these are mine to discuss. They are the film’s. And while there are parts that will disgust and repulse you, if you’ve been listening, if you’ve been watching, none of this will shock you. And it’s not meant to shock you: it’s meant to teach you something, to make you understand a people, their cause, and their beyond infringed upon rights.

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So do yourself a favour: educate yourself, and watch End of the Line.

Now.

CUFF 2021 runs from April 23–May 2, 2021. For more CUFF coverage, click here.

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