Neither Wolf Nor Dog: ‘This is not your average movie’

Showing on Tuesday, 28th of May at the Phoenix Cinema, Pickaquoy Centre Kirkwall is the wonderful ‘Neither Wolf Nor Dog’ from Scottish film maker Steven Lewis Simpson.

This not-to-be-missed film is an adaptation of the international best seller by Kent Nerburn. The film takes audiences on a deeply moving road trip through contemporary Lakota life. It is now the most successful non-Hollywood US Native American themed film in many years.


This extraordinary film has been in the making for 8 years. Director,  Steven Lewis Simpson has by-passed the usual methods and is self distributing the movie focusing on smaller independent cinemas. In Scotland it has been shown in Oban and now audiences in Orkney have the chance to see this incredible film.



The landscape is beautifully shot but on such a constrained budget it had to be done in Simpson’s words ‘ridiculously fast’.

‘Point the camera in any direction and its going to be beautiful.’

Simpson has noticed that the film has a particular resonance in communities that live in and around nature.

What will strike you about the movie is the performance of Dave Bald Eagle. Born in 1919 Dave Bald Eagle had himself lived a remarkable life. Left for dead after the DD Landings he was saved by some British commandos who noticed his badly shot up body still had a pulse. His life was full-some – love, tragedy, drama – it was all there but it is his quiet wisdom laced with twinkling humour that comes across in the film.


Simpson describes his performance as ‘touching people and hearts in a remarkable way.’

The climax of the movie takes place at Wounded Knee. This was where on December 29th 1890, 300 men, women, and children of the Lakota were massacred –  they were shot to pieces by the US 7th Cavalry Regiment.

This was one of the main reasons this could not be a ‘Hollywood’ movie. For Hollywood explains Simpson, it would ‘have just been a job – they would have missed all the details’. It had to be made with great sensitivity -in Simpson’s words with ‘understanding, empathy and knowledge. ‘

The film is mainly faithful to the novel by Kent Nerburn following a white author who gets sucked into the heart of contemporary Native American life . Where it departs from the novel it enhances the film.

Kent Nerburn said:

‘Steven changed the book. He adapted it. But he nailed it. The choices he made were exquisite. His film is at once different from the book and better than the book.’

‘In an act of astonishing creative transformation….he took my literary child and made a man of it.’


Filming took place on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation which stretches from the Nebraska/South Dakota border up to the Badlands on its north side and the Black hills bordering its western side. And within Pine Ridge lies Wounded Knee – sacred ground.

Steven Lewis Simpson said:

‘It is the morning of our first big day of filming. We are at Wounded Knee:hallowed ground in Indian Country as it is the site of the last and most notorious of the endless massacres of American Indian people. It is the most powerful spot on Earth for me and has been since I first ventured there following a sacred Ghost Shirt’s repatriation in 1999 from a Scottish museum. It had been taken as a trophy from the massacre.’

‘This is not your average movie.’

Neither Wolf Nor Dog is on at  the Phoenix Cinema , Kirkwall on Tuesday 28th of May – showing at 1pm and 7.30pm.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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