“People say the Indian wars ended in 1890. All of us Lakota know that the war is still going.” – Guy Dull Knife, Father of George Dull Knife
Fourteen-year-old George Dull Knife is growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, a place where the average male life expectancy is 48, where teen suicide is four times the national average and where the high school dropout rate is 70 percent.
A fifth-generation Dull Knife, he is raised on stories of his ancestors’ heroic leadership of their people in the face of great injustice.
Now, with rising racial tensions and protests affecting the residents of the reservation, George is acutely aware of the hardship and discrimination that continues to plague his people.
Filmed over a five-year period, On a Knife Edge follows George from his first political awakening to the events at Standing Rock.
Along the way, he becomes involved in the American Indian Movement, speaks out against plans to legalise alcohol sales on the reservation and feels the full force of the trauma facing his people when it strikes at the heart of his family.
During this journey, he learns first-hand what it means to lead a new generation and to enter adulthood in a world where the odds are stacked against him.
When resistance is a birthright
By Eli Cane
On a Knife Edge provides a unique opportunity to hear the voices and perspectives of people for whom there are no sidelines – for whom resistance is a birthright.
My grandfather was a member of the XV International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War, and he remained committed to the cause of social justice his entire life. He died shortly before I was born, but hundreds of his letters survive, and stories of his courage and dedication to the cause have permeated family lore.
Although I never knew him, On a Knife Edge is in one sense an attempt to understand him more thoroughly; as I watch Guy Dull Knife bring his young son George into a movement that routinely demands terrible sacrifice, I feel in some way that my connection to my grandfather has become more nuanced.
Radicals and revolutionaries can be killed; they can be jailed – often, they simply become exhausted. This side of things is routinely overlooked but rings true to many who have spent their lives in struggle, and its portrayal is one of the aspects of the film I feel is most important, and of which I am most proud.
A coming-of-age story about a son and his father
By Jeremy Williams
I began On a Knife Edge just as I had become a father and I was fascinated by the relationship that Guy Dull Knife had with all his children, especially his son George.
Guy gave us the opportunity to tell a coming-of-age story about a son guided by a wise and courageous father.
Dealing with the hardships and the struggles of life on the Pine Ridge Reservation – troubles which would have severely tested any family – the fortitude the Dull Knifes displayed was astonishing. Their resilience was in many respects rooted by a father who centred his entire family, inspiring not just them but also the wider community, with a sense of duty.
Witnessing Guy pass down this spirit of collective purpose to his son George, in particular, was a privilege. As society deals with the consequences of absent fathers the world over, Guy gave us the opportunity to tell a coming-of-age story about a son guided by a wise and courageous father.