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Madison’s Rob Pero signs on to produce historical film “The Last Indian War”

Rob Pero. Photo supplied.

Perodigm Films founder and award-winning film producer Rob Pero joins Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Graf as executive producer on the production of Graf’s screenplay “The Last Indian War”, according to a press release issued Wednesday.

The film will represent the true-life saga behind “the most important football game ever played,” the Carlisle vs. Army football game of 1912. In that game, Carlisle’s team, led by coach “Pop” Warner and star player Jim Thorpe, soundly defeated Dwight D. Eisenhower and the West Point team, 27-6.

Pero and the Wisconsin-based Perodigm Films team will collaborate on the production alongside Graf, to ensure an authentic portrayal of Indigenous people and the delicate historical significance of boarding schools in US history. 

Perodigm Films’ Indigenous-led team includes Samantha Skenandore (Ho-Chunk) as co-producer and legal counsel, Ryan Freng of Backflip Media as co-producer and creative executive, actor and former NFL player Alvin Cowan as producer, and actor and musician Ryan Carnes as producer. 

“There has never been a time with greater emphasis on social equity than right here, right now. Today’s audiences crave real and representative stories. For the first time major media platforms in the entertainment marketplace are seeking Indigenous stories told with an authentic Indigenous voice,”  Pero said in a statement. “The trauma and injustice that government boarding schools forced upon indigenous families is just now breaking through mainstream media and into the national discussion. The story of Carlisle is prescient today. It matters.” Pero is a member oftheBad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.

The screenplay “The Last Indian War” has been honored with over 30 industry awards, including ‘Best Screenplay’ at the Paris Arts and Movie Festival, ‘Best Screenplay’ at the Bahamas International Film Festival, the ‘Culture & Heritage Award’ at the Fresh Voices Screenwriting Competition in Hollywood, ‘Best Historical Screenplay’ at Sundance’s Table Read My Screenplay competition, and ‘Best Sports Screenplay’ at the Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Houston International Film Festivals. Graf has been twice shortlisted for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science’s prestigious Nicholl Fellowship for Screenwriters, named a Top 25 Screenwriter To Watch In 2021 by the International Screenwriters Association, and was the inaugural Writer In Residence at the University of Wisconsin’s Institute For Discovery.

“The Last Indian War” is a story about the forced relocation of Native American children and the birth of the modern game of football, as told through the lens of an Indigenous child. The origins of American football can be traced back to a Pennsylvania assimilation camp called the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. At Carlisle, which opened in 1879 as the first government-run boarding school for Native American children, the atrocities upon Native American children affected thousands of students and spanned more than 140 tribes over its 39 years. 

In what producers call “a heartfelt and inspiring story that illuminates the dark history of assimilation schools in the United States,” “The Last Indian War” is about how Sam American Horse, son of a Lakota Chief, and a group of Native American children kidnapped by the US Army overcome incredible adversity, reinvent the game of football, and go on to play one of the greatest football games ever played – against the very group responsible for their kidnapping.

“With the ongoing controversy surrounding the use of Native American names and images in football, we should be questioning why and how football programs got their names in the first place,” Graf said in a statement. “Most people are surprised to find out that the great American pastime owes its very existence to a small group of Native American Indian kids who were ripped from their families and tribes by the US Military and sent off to the Carlisle military boarding school in rural Pennsylvania. In fact, President Eisenhower said the Carlisle Indians changed the very course of history. It’s time to bring the story of the Carlisle Indians – the team that invented the modern game of football – to the screen. It’s a hell of a good story.”