Mohegan Sun combines their passions with Black Cloud Premiere
By Alex Pierpaoli (March 11, 2005) 
Black Cloud
Premieres Today
On Wednesday night the Mohegan Sun hosted the Northeast premiere of Black Cloud, a film about a Native American fighter written, directed and produced by former child star, Rick Schroder. President and CEO Mitchell Etess told the assembled media on Wednesday that the Connecticut casino’s relationship with the film was fitting as it fuses Native-American culture with boxing, two of the passions that drive the Mohegan Sun.

Black Cloud is the inspirational and beautifully shot story of a Native-American light heavyweight struggling with his frustrations of growing up in a white man’s nation and the pressures of maintaining his own cultural identity in a world that seeks to dilute and diminish it. The character Black Cloud, played by Eddie Spears, is in love with Sammi, a single mother of a mixed blood child named Tyler.

Sammi, portrayed by the strikingly beautiful Julia Jones, is the peace and stability at the center of Black Cloud’s life; and only with her can Black Cloud keep from teetering into a void of rage and despair. Sammi works with children and warns them to watch their sugar consumption, while trying hard to convince Black Cloud to be proud of himself and to stop raging against the world.

Rick Schroder portrays Eddie Young, the film’s villainous rodeo star and father of Tyler. Early on Black Cloud and Young come to blows over Sammi and the fisticuffs culminates in a dramatic fight inside a horse-trailer which vividly depicts the claustrophobia of Black Cloud’s rage; even when he releases it he seems trapped within a larger cage of hopelessness.

It is at one of Black Cloud’s amateur fights where he meets an Olympic boxing scout that takes an interest in him and invites him to a tournament in Las Vegas. Black Cloud pushes the scout away, unable to trust the white man and his pretty lies about fighting for a country that has little need for his people.

Soon after, Wayne Knight, who Seinfeld fans will recognize as the now-slim Newman, plays a smarmy and lecherous Indian Affairs & Housing official who first reveals to Black Cloud the stain of white blood in his ancestry which sets him off on a descent into self-destruction. After learning of his mixed blood, Black Cloud is lost and turns away from Sammi and it is only through an inner voyage and the guidance of both his trainer and his grandfather that Black Cloud emerges with hope.

After a change of heart Black Cloud enters the Vegas boxing tournament, a qualifier for the Olympic trials, where he is expected to face Rocket Ray Tracey, an African-American light heavyweight and crowd favorite. With Tracey, played by Pooch Hall, as Black Cloud’s relatively unlikable foil, Schroder ran the risk of simply letting one minority triumph over the other in a white man’s world. But Schroder’s script builds up a believable and empathetic case that motivates Tracey and lets the audience see him as a realistic character. Tracey fights for many of the same reasons as Black Cloud, to rise above his own past, to pull himself and his family out of poverty and to make a name for himself in a culture that worships winners and the successful but forgets the meek and impoverished.

The film’s climax has moments that border on melodrama as is common to many boxing films but there is a quality of emotion in Schroder’s lead actor, Eddie Spears, that captures the viewer’s heart and most will find themselves rooting for him to conquer his foes inside the ring and his demons within.

It is the character of both Schroder’s antagonist, Eddie Young, and the white sheriff, portrayed by Tim McGraw, where there seems a lack of motivation. We are never certain why Schroder’s Eddie Young pursues Sammi other than some sick satisfaction he may get out of tormenting Black Cloud. And in the Sheriff, McGraw appears as yet another malignant force moving against Black Cloud but there are lapses in his animosity towards the young fighter which seem slightly incongruent unless Schroder was attempting to illustrate a societal disinterest in native-American struggles; they are powerless, figures the white man, so why bother feeling threatened by them?

Perhaps McGraw’s character is more representative of the predominate white culture itself, content to sit back and watch unaffected, as native-Americans destroy themselves with alcoholism, obesity and the despair of unemployment. Schroder depicts many of the real-life obstacles and pitfalls that lie in the path of any Native-American coming of age in these United States and his compassion for Native culture can be felt in each traditional dance brought to life on screen in firelight and drum rhythms or the wide vistas of pristine wilderness to which Native-American culture is so connected.

Black Cloud opens today and is playing in select theaters nationwide. It is rated PG13 and runs 97 minutes
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