On Oct. 20, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” starring Leonardo Dicaprio and Lily Gladstone, will begin showing in theaters. The Martin Scorsese-directed film is heavily based on a true story from Oklahoma in the 1920s, following a series of murders of the Osage people (a Native American tribe), over oil money. Martin Scorsese, who’s known for directing feature length narrative films and documentaries, is also known for his harsh depictions of American culture, and “Killers of the Flower Moon” is no exception.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is an example of buried American history being unearthed; the murders are a crucial part of American history, and yet it’s widely unknown and rarely taught in schools to this day. It’s also one of the few out of thirty Martin Scorsese movies that has a female main character.
In 2017, author David Grann released a book by the same title that inspired the movie. It told the largely unknown story about the families of Osage people being murdered to take their oil rights. The book became a New York Times bestseller, kicking off film production a year later.
The film adheres to the historical accuracy of the book, portraying real historical events and figures. The Osage people (an indigenous tribe from what we know as Oklahoma) were relegated to land considered useless. In the 1920s, the “useless” land was discovered to be rich with oil, turning it into the most valuable property in the country.
The Osage people soon became some of the wealthiest people not only in the United States, but in the world, sending their children overseas for prestigious schools and living in mansions. A Native American with this quantity of money was seen as a threat by the US government, giving way to laws that required a white person to manage the wealth. Osage women were forced to marry a white man to have any kind of control over their money. Osage men still had to have a white person approve all of their purchases.
Mysteriously, the Osage people began dying when they were perfectly healthy and young. This left many to believe the circumstances were not so coincidental, as these deaths provided the perfect conditions for Osage oil money to take.
Leonardo Dicaprio plays Ernest Burkhart, the nephew of business magnate William Hale (Robert De Niro). Burkhart is married to an Osage woman, Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), whose family is heavily affected by the murders. Mollie finds herself watching her people die right before her eyes; her sister vanishes and her mother and an Osage elder are poisoned. The production took place on Osage island. The film crew consulted the Osage nation chief, Geoffrey Standing Bear to make sure the wishes of the Osage nation were granted for this movie.
Though the movie hasn’t been officially released in theaters, it’s been widely reviewed. “It’s the closest thing he’s made to a genuine Western, which has caused it to be viewed less as a film than as a potential earth shaking event.” says David Fear from Rolling Stone magazine. It also premiered at the annual Cannes film festival, where it received a nine minute standing ovation. Finally, “Killers of the Flower Moon” has a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Overall, it’s safe to assume that “Killers of the Flower Moon” will expose a dark side of American history, serving as a grand finale for Scorsese’s career and revealing an important story.