The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the UCLA Film and Television Archive's Contemporary Documentary Series continues tonight at 8 in UCLA's Melnitz Theater with two more outstanding works, "Contrary Warriors: A Film of the Crow Tribe" (1985), made by Connie Poten, Pamela Roberts and Beth Ferris, and Sharon I. Sopher's Oscar-nominated "Witness to Apartheid" (1986).
As enlightening as it is moving, "Contrary Warriors" surveys the Crow Indians' century-long struggle for survival, focusing on remarkable tribal leader Robert Yellowtail, who's nearing the century mark himself.
"Contrary Warriors" is more than the familiar litany of the white man's bad faith, oppression and exploitation of Native Americans: It outlines how, under the well-educated and articulate Yellowtail's strong leadership, the tribe has actually won a few rounds in the long fight for justice and equality.
Over the decades the Crows have reclaimed their once-banned language and culture and have gradually achieved unity within their various tribes, and they draw strength from their enduring sense of extended family. The two great, related challenges facing them are reclamation of lost lands and combating a 75% unemployment problem that drives many off the reservation in southeastern Montana.