The Exiles (1961)

No longer in exile, thanks to Milestone Films

The neighborhood is gone, but the film is finally coming to theaters and home video

A somewhat forgotten film that deserves to be recognized as a key work of American independent cinema, right up there with Cassavetes’ Shadows. The Exiles is a docudrama about a night in the lives of American Indians living in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles. Between drinking, card playing, skirt chasing and moments of isolation, a series of wonderful interviews serve as narration allowing the viewer to peer into the introspective thoughts of key characters. It reminds me of tactics later used by Godard or Rouch, and yet this predates much of the new-wave and was released the same year as Chronicle of a Summer.

When I first saw a clip of this film in Los Angeles Plays Itself I grew obsessed with seeing it. With some persistence and luck, I was able to track down a copy. It’s three years later and it appears the rest of the world is about to discover this film. Milestones, the same company that put out Killer of Sheep, is about to release this on DVD. I couldn’t be happier and I can’t wait to see the new print of this film. It is such a wonderful glimpse into a world now long gone. Let’s hope the film stick in people’s minds longer than when it was first released.

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