The Trial of Billy Jack - Native American Movie Listing
You of course have to watch the first Billy Jack movie to really understand this one. In the first movie, Billy Jack stands up for the downtrodden free-spirited kids in a quiet western town - and gets into a fight that results in a few deaths. He wants to just make a stand and die, but Miss Jean Roberts, his girlfriend convinces him to turn himself in. That's where the story ends.
These movies were made during the times of rioting and political unrest, and it's important to keep that context in mind. Kent State is explicitly mentioned several times in the opening scenes, with Jean lamenting, "students are slaughtered by trigger-happy police types and nothing is ever done about it."
The movie is in essence a long flashback sequence. It starts where movie #1 ended, with Billy Jack being tried. Roberts is accused of lying about her rape. Billy explains how the US government killed innocent women and children in Vietnam - soldiers were told to "waste them". Billy refused to participate in that dastardly killing. My Lai is of course brought up here. At the end of the trial, Billy was tossed into jail, while the students work on growing the school.
We head into the school's world of biofeedback, meditation, yoga football, belly dancing and singing. The self-governing students work on child abuse and orphanages, and move on to exposing government corruption and consumer issues. They laugh about how corrupted Nixon was. Soon they have a TV station and broadcast news about abuses in the area. In retaliation, the students' phones are bugged and the FBI begins investigating the school.
Jean talks about loving child abusers instead of punishing them - that if child abuse organizations "love" bad parents, they will all start being nice to their kids.
Skip to scenes of blatant police brutality and also police feeling up women during searches. Typical quote - "Police - they're so damned corrupt." Oddly, for a movie which claims to champion the rights of women, there is a *lot* of gratuitous breast jiggling shots in this film.
I won't give away the ending, but I think you see the pattern here. This movie is *very* black and white. The kids are always good, noble, kind, and super-wise, super-intelligent (and sexy). The police, government and businessmen are always evil, corrupted and power-hungry (and ugly). Many of the statistics they quote to back their statements up are completely wrong. It's one thing to make a point, but it's quite another to lie in order to make your points. My boyfriend and I laughed out loud several times because the movie tipped so heavily into its over-the-top dialogue.
That being said, I can certainly understand how parts of this movie might appeal to viewers who had never heard of some of these concepts before. It's like people watching the Matrix and being wowed at the philosophies explained there, because they'd never learned them in high school. The Trial of Billy Jack covers many important basic ideas. The idea that people of honor should stand up for what's right even if it's difficult. The idea that you should focus, every day, on what is really important - not on blown-up but fleeting emergencies. The idea that even if people are violent or angry with you, that you should have the self-possession and maturity to stay calm and peaceful yourself in response. The idea that you should seek to find balance in your life.
These are certainly all very important philosophies, but there are many other movies which make these points without having to resort to exaggeration, untruths and stereotypes. I really like the message - but I don't like being led by the nose with wild inaccuracies to try to drive the message home. In many ways it makes the message far less palatable. In one scene you watch an entire roomful of "regular people" stand around while they torture a fellow human being. This isn't storytelling ... it's preaching, and I would hope that most audiences were able to handle issues in a more mature, realistic manner.
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