NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on September 28, 2021
Gather tells three different stories, the first being that of Nephi Craig, a chef from the White Mountain Apache Nation in Arizona who is opening a cafe that will use supplies grown on local farms.
The second story is that of Elsie Dubray from the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation in South Dakota who is a young scientist studying the link between eating bison and indigenous health.
The third story is of the Ancestral Guard from the Yurok Nation in Northern California, a group of environmental activists working to save the Klamath river. These three stories are used to talk more broadly about the history of indigenous people, mostly in America but a lot of the stories apply worldwide.
As far as documentaries go, Gather is up there with some of the smartest ones. It opens cleverly by just letting you get to know these people, making you interested in their highly personal stories about wanting to start a business or their scientific studies before using those as a springboard to talk about larger issues.
When it comes time to those larger issues, namely issues around the indigenous genocides that have not only devastated the people but also the land, animals, air… basically everything got really messed up, the documentary calmly goes back and forth between personal stories and the history. It’s almost spoon-feeding the audience the essential information it’s trying to impart to the viewer.
Not only does Gather provide an education about indigenous history that we could all learn from, it’s also just a gorgeous film to behold. You see this mostly in the stories around Nephi and the Ancestral Guard since they have the most outdoor elements but whenever they’re outside the camera almost seems determined to show as much of the land as possible in some truly gorgeous shots.
Gather does have a little bit of that “I wish it was longer” vibe going, at 74 minutes it’s a lean as hell film that just glides by so quickly. There’s so much amazing stuff in this film that you kinda wanna see it getting fleshed out a little more, maybe explore some of these ideas in more detail. It just feels like we’re rushing through and there’s not much time for the impact of some of these moments to really hit, especially at the end when some of the individual stories reach their climax and it just feels like it ends so abruptly.
Those individual stories are very carefully woven together, creating this rich tapestry that feels broad enough to give those of us who are outside of the indigenous community a good glimpse into their lives. Only a glimpse though, no more than that… though, admittedly, no documentary could give more than a glimpse because there’s so much history and culture that it would take a lifetime to properly impart it all. What’s imparted here is a good start, a way to hopefully get people talking so that change can start. Considering this is just a small glimpse, what’s being shown is truly fascinating.
Gather is a genuinely fascinating, albeit short, film that informs, stuns and charms in fairly equal measure. Taking the story of the indigenous people and using the connection of food as a springboard to tell the broader story of indigenous genocide and how their community is fighting back is a brilliant and powerful way to get this story across to a much wider audience. It’s also just a very easy film to enjoy and get through with a particularly heavy message, one of the better documentaries out there.