2020 Sundance Film Festival Review Of “LITTLE CHIEF”- A Poignant Winter’s Tale

By Vernon Nickerson


That’s what many black preachers jokingly tell their congregants to shout when the sermon is directly applicable to their lives. i.e., stepping on their toes. As a second-year special education teacher at an inner-city Title 1 school, “Ouch!” was my immediate reaction to Erica Tremblay’s visually powerful short, “Little Chief”, from the first minute until the last. In too many classrooms throughout the country, the stark images in Tremblay’s work are all too common for too many smart children hungry to learn, too many teachers who are required to get creative in serving the educational, economic and socio-emotional needs of their students, and for too many parents and or caregivers who are too poor and or too neglectful due to substance abuse and or domestic violence.

The students in Erica Tremblay’s classroom could be anywhere in the United States in the 21st Century. In a poignant bit of “income inequality” irony, we see that the Native American Oklahoman tribal community where Little Chief’s story unfolds has a casino which also surreptitiously supplies his school with trash bags, toilet paper, mini hand soaps, and hard candy.

So how many is too many? One teacher showing up to serve and protect her young charges (played by actress Lily Gladstone), one student, played by young actor Julian Ballentyne and one school (Turkey Ford) in rural Oklahoma.

My hope is that every working adult who sees this film will reach out to a public school in an urban or rural area and discover how best they can meet one or more of their local school’s needs- mentoring, tutoring, purchasing snacks and or supplies. I guarantee you that all support will be appreciated. Let’s make “Little Chief” go viral at your local movie palace in 2020!

Little Chief will premiere January 27 at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival as part of their Shorts Selection. For more information go here