CARLISLE – Robert Redford signed on recently to be the executive producer of an upcoming independent film about the early history of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School that was researched at the Cumberland County Historical Society.
The movie “To Save the Man” will tell the story of Capt. Richard Pratt, founder and first superintendent of the Indian school, according to the Peninsula Daily News in Port Angeles, Washington. His quote “to save the man you need to kill the Indian” gives the movie its name.
Filming for “To Save the Man” is set to begin in mid-May at Fort Worden in Port Townsend, Washington, The Jefferson County Leader reported. There was no mention in any of the reports of the movie being filmed in either Carlisle or Pennsylvania.
Maggie Renzi, producer of the film, told the County Leader earlier this month that the production crew had visited the historical society in Carlisle at least twice to research the Indian school. The most recent visit was last winter, when writer and director John Sayles looked up specific details in the archives.
“He had a foundation for his script before he even came here, ” said Cara Curtis, historical society librarian. “He had the broader plot. He was trying to fill in the details and bring life to the story. He wants to make it as good as possible.”
Curtis added how Sayles’ research in Carlisle included reading campus newspapers produced by Indian school students. Barbara Landis, Indian school biographer for the historical society, has read a draft of the script. She was unavailable for comment. The production crew met with Landis during one of its visits to Carlisle.
Actor Chris Cooper has been cast in the role of Pratt.
“I’ve carried this story with me for many years, ” Sayles told the Washington newspaper. “I want to reveal a chapter in the history of the cultural genocide practiced against the Native American people and their heroic efforts to survive it.”
The goal of the Carlisle Indian School was to assimilate Native American children to the white man’s culture. The school at Carlisle served as the model for other off-reservation boarding schools throughout the country.