There is nothing like being there. When one see’s first-hand the battle waged by others it invokes the saving grace of mankind, empathy. This principal applies especially when looking into marginalized communities found in the heart of first world countries. Often times, without these windows of insight, larger communities will isolate these cultural shadows, preferring never to reflect or interact with them.

Luckily, there’s such a thing as documentaries. Director Jack Pettibone Riccobono cuts through the popular disassociation with his debut documentary, THE SEVENTH FIRE, and shines a light on one of the results of America’s murderous upbringing. The film premiered at Berlin International Film Festival and has since been screened at the White House as a part of President Obama’s criminal justice reform campaign.

THE SEVENTH FIRE is a scorching account of Native American life on an Ojibwe reservation in rural Minnesota; focusing on the wave of gang culture that’s overtaking the community. Riccobono’s camera paints a stark portrait of broken down homes against endless fields as well as dark nights with pockets of sick yellow light to serve as refuge.

The documentary follows different members of the gang culture, jumping between their everyday actions to understand how the community got to this point. Each member is at a distinctive stage in his or her life and commitment to the gang—and as their stories progress, Riccobono capture’s the common themes between them. Drawing out the bigger picture of how each subject is a reflection of the others’ past and future choices.

The film finds deep insight with its main subject, Rob Brown, a repeat offender and gang leader who stands on the brink of returning to prison. At the time of the film, he is standing trail for his fifth offence. Rob is forced to confront on camera his role in spreading violent drug culture into his community; leading the film into some of its most dramatic and heart wrenching moments.

From executive producers Terrence Malick, Natalie Portman, and Chris Eyre, THE SEVENTH FIRE comes out in theatres today. Don’t disassociate yourself any further from your cultural shadow and make time to watch this evocative and unwavering documentary.


About Author

Wyatt Phillips

Daniel Wyatt Phillips is a screenwriter, director, illustrator, and reviewer born and raised in Chicago, IL, he enjoys long walks on the beach, peperoni pizza, and worshiping at the shrine of Stanley Kubrick. Currently transplanted to Los Angeles to pursue a career in writing and directing. To check out his range of work, visit:

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