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Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

HBO • Sunday, May 27 (9 p.m.)

After three-and-a-half decades, historian Dee Brown’s bestseller Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee finally comes to the (albeit small) screen. But admirers of the 1971 account of the U.S.’s expansion westward and its tragic impact on the American Indian will be disappointed with the long-overdue filmic treatment it gets here.

Not that HBO’s 130-minute telepic has nothing going for it. There are some strong performances, outstanding cinematography and top-drawer production values — not to mention enough choreographed violence to sate Sunday-night viewers expecting The Sopranos. But by deciding to turn its epic source material into a human drama, HBO has shown a surprising lack of faith in history for history’s sake. The end result is a historical dramatization that doesn’t serve history well, and disappoints as TV drama.

The telepic spans the period between the Sioux defeat of General Custer at Little Big Horn in 1876 and the 1890 massacre of the Lakotas at Wounded Knee. Daniel Giat’s script centers primarily on three characters: part-Sioux Charles Eastman (Adam Beach of Flags of Our Fathers); Sen. Henry Dawes (Aidan Quinn), who was at the center of U.S. policy on Indian affairs; and Lakota chief Sitting Bull (August Schellenberg, in a standout performance).

While there’s no denying Wounded Knee’s power, it’s the traces of actual history (sometimes vividly captured) on the screen that will move viewers most.

— George Vernadakis

Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed

The History Channel • Monday, May 28 (9 p.m.)

In the past 30 years, no single work of art has had a greater impact on pop culture than the Star Wars movie cycle, and The History Channel explores why in Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed.

The documentary focuses primarily on the mythic sources creator George Lucas drew on, from classical mythology to the American West. Legacy also touches on philosophical, religious and historical references in the films. The overriding presence in this examination is Joseph Campbell, the academic best known for his study of mythology and whose work Lucas was very familiar with.

The documentary takes its mythological reading of Star Wars very seriously, but not so much that it will bore or go over the head of the average fan.

While it does not cover new ground, History should be applauded for the diverse group of commentators that it has drawn together. Politicians Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi give their opinions alongside journalists Linda Ellerbee, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather. And their voices are joined by intellectuals like Camille Paglia and Mary Henderson (author of Star Wars: The Magic of Myth), directors Peter Jackson and Kevin Smith and comedian Stephen Colbert.

— Eric J. Smith

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