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THE EXILES - A Film By Kent Mackenzie
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THE FILM

Award-winning Spokane/Coeur d'Alene author Sherman Alexie and noted Los Angeles director Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep) present Kent Mackenzie's remarkable 1961 debut feature THE EXILES.

While attending the University of Southern California, director Kent Mackenzie made his first film, the controversial short documentary Bunker Hill - 1956, chronicling the planned demolition of a vibrant urban community. Excited by the challenge of working with nonprofessionals, filming on location and collaborating with his fellow film school grads, Mackenzie turned away from the mainstream moviemaking of the 1950s and embarked on a new kind of cinema. With such other free-spirited and groundbreaking filmmakers as John Cassavetes, Lionel Rogosin and Shirley Clarke, Mackenzie helped create an innovative American Independent movement that profoundly influenced the resurgent Hollywood new wave of the late 1960s.

Bunker Hill, where most of THE EXILES is set, was once the glory of downtown L.A. - a haven for wealthy Los Angelenos set on a steep hill with a magnificent view. But by 1960, the area was a run-down neighborhood of decayed Victorian mansions and skid-row apartment buildings. The seedy charms of Bunker Hill have been celebrated in the novels of John Fante, Raymond Chandler and Charles Bukowski. For the men and women featured in THE EXILES, the neighborhood is an escape from the monotony of life "back home." The guys spend their night barhopping and gambling while the women try to hold their homes together and go to the movies to dream.

THE EXILES is now a precious artifact of a lost time and place. In the early 1960s, developers and city planners not only razed the existing homes and tenements of Bunker Hill, they actually leveled much of the hill itself - replacing a residential neighborhood with high-rises, office buildings and more recently, the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Gritty, realistic and far ahead of its time (in a period when Hollywood films featured noble savages), the script for THE EXILES was created exclusively from recorded interviews with the participants and with their ongoing input during the shooting of the film. Native American writers and activists have long considered the film as one of first works of art to portray modern life honestly and as an important forerunner for the cultural renaissance of American Indian fiction, poetry, filmmaking and theater starting in the 1970s.

Tragically, this moving and brilliantly shot collaboration between filmmaker Mackenzie and the young men and women whose lives he documented never received a commercial release. For years the film was almost impossible to find. So, when filmmaker Thom Andersen included glowing night scenes from THE EXILES in his 2003 compilation documentary, Los Angeles Plays Itself, viewers were enthralled with the poetry of the images.

Milestone acquired the film from the daughters of Kent Mackenzie and is releasing the restored version (UCLA Film & Television Archive). It will be distributed throughout the world and will premiere at the IFC center in New York on July 11th, 2008.

"CRITICS PICK. Surprisingly enthralling and breathtakingly gorgeous, it's almost astonishing that this find languished in the archives for so long."
—SARA CARDACE
NEW YORK MAGAZINE

"Gripping, dramatic, tender and true, THE EXILES is an outstanding motion picture."
—WILL ROGERS JR.
NATIONAL CONGRESS OF AMERICAN INDIANS

"...All the makings of an instant classic."
—JONATHAN ROSENBAUM
CHICAGO READER

"Thom Anderson (L.A. Plays Itself) hailed it as one of the most honest movies ever made about the city...An expose of ethnic urban alienation that shows people we almost never see on screen, even today."
—CORNELL CINEMA

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