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Killers of the Flower Moon Sheds Light on Oklahoma’s History

Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by SPN Editor

Film enthusiasts are in for a treat as the highly anticipated historical drama “Killers of the Flower Moon” unveils an explosive new trailer, offering a deeper glimpse into its captivating romance and conflict.

The new trailer having two-and-a-half minutes duration sheds light on the intricate interactions between the characters portrayed by acclaimed actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, as well as Academy Award nominee Jesse Plemons and Native American talent Lily Gladstone, whose performance is already generating considerable Oscar buzz.

The newly released trailer provides a tantalizing glimpse into the riveting narrative, the complex relationships between characters, and the high production value that is expected from a Martin Scorsese film.

Following the release of the first teaser trailer in May at the renowned Cannes Film Festival in France, where the movie made its world premiere, Apple Studios recently dropped a slightly longer preview for “Killers of the Flower Moon” ahead of its upcoming theatrical debut in the fall.

In conjunction with the trailer release, Apple Studios announced that Martin Scorsese’s latest cinematic masterpiece will receive an IMAX run upon its arrival in theaters in October.

“Killers of the Flower Moon,” filmed in Oklahoma two years ago by the iconic director Scorsese, has become one of the most highly anticipated movies of 2023.

The film which is three hours and twenty-six minutes long garnered enthusiastic reviews and an extended standing ovation during its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 20.

The buzz surrounding the movie has already sparked Academy Awards speculation months ahead of its scheduled autumn release.

Made with a budget of $200 million, Scorsese’s Western, based on true events, stands as one of the most ambitious film productions ever undertaken in Oklahoma. Moreover, it delves into one of the state’s most horrifying and often overlooked chapters in history.

This movie is inspired by David Grann’s best-selling book, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” which was co-written into a screenplay by Scorsese and Academy Award winner Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump”).

Grann’s book sheds light on the Osage people’s description of May as the “time of the flower-killing moon,” a season when flourishing plants overshadow and stifle spring flowers. This metaphor symbolizes the greed, racism, treachery, death, and injustice that afflicted the Osage Nation during the 1920s, a period that should have been characterized by boundless prosperity but instead earned the moniker “Reign of Terror.”

Speaking about the historical significance of the Osage people’s story, Grann remarked, “The Osage, I always say they know their history intimately. They know this part of their history; they know what happened. But there were far too many of us who didn’t… in Oklahoma and across the country,” during an interview with The Oklahoman in 2020.

The narrative behind “Killers of the Flower Moon” traces back to the 1870s when the Osage became the sole Native American nation to purchase its reservation. Twenty-five years later, the discovery of oil beneath the land collectively owned by the tribe brought newfound wealth.

As the road to Oklahoma statehood unfolded, the U.S. Congress passed the 1906 Osage Allotment Act, which mandated the equal distribution of property and mineral income among the tribe’s 2,200-plus members. These equal shares, known as headrights, were hereditary and passed to the immediate legal heirs, even if they were not Osage.

In the 1920s, as oil production in the Osage Nation peaked, the tribe’s members emerged as the world’s wealthiest individuals per capita, attracting opportunistic individuals who plotted to exploit the Osage people by targeting their headrights and wealth through any means necessary.

The period between 1920 and 1925 witnessed over 60 mysterious and unsolved murders in Osage County, all linked to Osage headright holders. These horrific acts became known as the Reign of Terror.

The Osage tribe dispatched a delegation to Washington, D.C., in 1923, urging the federal government to launch an investigation. The U.S. Bureau of Investigation (predecessor to the FBI) subsequently dispatched agents to the Osage Nation in Oklahoma.

“We paid at that time, in the ’20s, $20,000 to hire the FBI to find the killers of our people that were being murdered,” shared Danette Daniels, an Osage businesswoman residing in Fairfax and the owner of Water Bird Gallery in downtown Pawhuska, during an interview with The Oklahoman in 2021.

Tragically, in 1921, the federal government passed a mandate declaring the Osage people incapable of managing their wealth. As a result, court-appointed white guardians, chosen solely based on their race, were assigned to Osage adults, leading to many tribal members being swindled out of their fortunes. Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, who is Osage, highlighted the subhuman treatment endured by Native Americans during that time.

He emphasized, “My biggest takeaway, in the case of ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ and the murders that it covers, is the subhuman way that Native Americans were treated—not just that they were murdered, but that it wasn’t even hardly viewed as a crime that they were murdered.

The perpetrators were allowed by local and state authorities to basically get away with it. It required federal intervention for anyone to really be held accountable.”

At the core of Grann’s book and Scorsese’s film adaptation is the story of Mollie Kyle Burkhart, an Osage woman residing in Gray Horse, a tribal settlement near Fairfax. During the Reign of Terror, Mollie and her family were targeted in a malicious scheme to swindle away their oil wealth. “There were so many undocumented murders. The Mollie Burkhart family is a microcosm of the bigger picture,” remarked Daniels.

While initially approaching the film adaptation as a Western police procedural, Scorsese ultimately decided to center the narrative on Mollie, portrayed by Lily Gladstone, and her treacherous husband, Ernest Burkhart, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Scorsese described the story as “not a whodunit but a who-didn’t-do-it.”

He further explained, “The story is in the character that the least is written about, Ernest. And of course, that’s what Leo wanted to do. He said, ‘Let’s try to find who Ernest is, and let’s create Ernest as an example… for that tragedy of love, trust, and betrayal of the Indigenous people.'”

In addition to DiCaprio and Gladstone, the film also features the acclaimed Robert De Niro in a significant role. Gladstone’s portrayal of Mollie, who faced grave danger due to her misplaced trust in her husband, has already garnered considerable praise and positioned her as a potential Oscar contender.

Reflecting on her character, Gladstone remarked at Cannes, “Mollie was a trick in holding true to not only the way she’s perceived in the book but by the legacy that she’s left in the community, by playing an Osage woman who conducts herself with grace and with measure, but also with humor and with unshakable strength.”

With its captivating storyline, stellar cast, and a masterful director at the helm,”Killers of the Flower Moon” is poised to captivate audiences and shed light on a dark chapter in history.

The historical significance of the Osage people’s story, the impact of the Reign of Terror, and the enduring strength of individuals like Mollie Burkhart are poised to leave a lasting impression on viewers.