Dreamkeeper is a rare screen venture into American Indian mythology. Aside from the incorporation of American Indian supernatural elements into the odd horror film Shadow of the Hawk (1976), Wolfen (1981) and in particular The Manitou (1978) and Nightwing (1979), or the Native American mysticism in films like The Doors (1991) and Disneys Pocahontas (1995) we have rarely ever seen American Indian myth on screen before. Indeed, Dreamkeeper may be the first ever attempt to depict American Indian myths and legends on screen.
Dreamkeeper tells nine different stories, each seemingly drawn from a different tribal background. The episodes are contrasted with a modern wraparound segment that shows the disparity between the mythic heroism and the impoverished condition of the modern Indian. All of this is depicted on screen with what one has no doubt is a high degree of cultural authenticity. Indeed, screenwriter John Fusco, who also penned Crossroads (1986), Loch Ness (1996), The Forbidden Kingdom (2008), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016) and The Shack (2017), as well as such Western/Indian themed films as Young Guns (1988), Thunderheart (1992) and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002), has been adopted by Oglala-Lakota tribes and speaks their language. (In fact, the Pine Ridge, South Dakota reservation where Dreamkeeper starts out from is the Oglala-Lakota home territory). The mini-series has been cast with real Native Americans. Among these in particular, Eddie Spears, the young unknown actor who plays Shane, is very good.
The series is extremely well written and impressive. Like his previous Hallmark mini-series Arabian Nights, Steve Barron creates a work that tells a variety of stories and weaves a strong framing story around them using a storyteller as narrator. August Schellenbergs I will tell you what happened tomorrow if I am still in this world is very similar to Scheherazades storytelling cliffhangers in Arabian Nights. Barron uses the narrative format with a great fluidity, weaving in and out of stories, using aspects of one to reflect and occasionally intersect with the other. There becomes a decided playfulness to this a bullet shot in one tale flies across and pierces the radiator of the pickup truck in the present, or characters are seen to be sitting behind the hill as Shane and grandfather drive past below; while Eagle Boys wrestle with the snake Uncegila is intercut with Eddie Spears diving into the water to rescue the people in the vehicle that crashed into the lake.
Some of the stories are briefer than the others the Iktomi and Coyote piece never amounts to anything, nor does the final episode with the hunter Ekuskini pursuing his fathers ghost through the snows. Particularly imaginative is the story of She Crosses the Water and the Thunder Spirit, which Steve Barron shoots in artily abstract visuals, surrounding the actors with what looks like a series of impressionist watercolours come to life. The episode is full of striking images of the two meeting in a swirl of blue impressionistic colours and the ghost warrior rowing across the sky in his canoe, just like something out of What Dreams May Come (1998). There are some wonderful images in the Quill Work Girl story of the tree growing to the heavens and the maddened buffalo battering against its roots and Quill Work Girl and her adopted brothers going on to become part of the heavens. Steve Barrons camerawork, even though shot for the small screen rather than the big screen, is wonderfully expansive, with cameraman Jon Joffin shooting beautiful widescreen shots of pony and buffalo stampedes across the plains or of tribes massed up to go into war.
Steve Barrons other genre productions are: the computer romance Electric Dreams (1984), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Coneheads (1993), The Adventures of Pinocchio (1996) and Rat (2000) about a man who turns into a rat, as well as the tv mini-series Merlin (1998), Arabian Nights (2000) and Delete (2013). Barron also founded Canadas Mainframe Entertainment, the worlds first commercial computer animation company and the producers of tv series such as Reboot (1994-2001) and Beast Wars: Transformers (1996-9).
Hallmarks other works of genre note are: the sf mini-series White Dwarf (1995), The Canterville Ghost (1996), Gullivers Travels (1996), Harvey (1996), the Christmas musical Mrs Santa Claus (1996), Murders in the Rue Morgue (1996), the childrens horror Shadow Zone: The Undead Express (1996), the medical thriller Terminal (1996), The Odyssey (1997), the cloning thriller The Third Twin (1997), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997), the monster movie Creature (1998), Merlin (1998), the sf film Virtual Obsession (1998), Aftershock: Earthquake in New York (1999), Alice in Wonderland (1999), Animal Farm (1999), A Christmas Carol (1999), the tv series Farscape (1999-2003), Journey to the Center of the Earth (1999), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1999), The Magical Land of the Leprechauns (1999), Arabian Nights (2000), the modernised Hamlet (2000), Jason and the Argonauts (2000), Prince Charming (2000), the mini-series The 10th Kingdom (2000) set in an alternate world where fairy-tales are true, the medical thriller Acceptable Risk (2001), The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells (2001), Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story (2001), The Monkey King/The Lost Empire (2001), My Life as a Fairytale: Hans Christian Andersen (2001), Snow White (2001), the series Tales from the Neverending Story (2001), the fantasy adventure Voyage of the Unicorn (2001), the Sherlock Holmes film The Case of the Whitechapel Vampire (2002), Dinotopia (2002), The Hound of the Baskervilles (2002), the Christmas film Mr St. Nick (2002), the Christmas film Santa Jr (2002), Snow Queen (2002), the modernised A Carol Christmas (2003), Children of Dune (2003), the childrens monster film Monster Makers (2003), Angel in the Family (2004), A Christmas Carol (2004), Earthsea (2004), 5ive Days to Midnight (2004) about forewarning of the future, Frankenstein (2004), King Solomons Mines (2004), the Christmas film Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus (2004), Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone (2005), Hercules (2005), the thriller Icon (2005), Meet the Santas (2005), Mysterious Island (2005), the disaster mini-series Supernova (2005), The Curse of King Tuts Tomb (2006), the disaster mini-series The Final Days of Planet Earth (2006), Merlins Apprentice (2006), the bird flu disaster mini-series Pandemic (2006), the disaster mini-series 10:15 Apocalypse (2006), the psychic drama Carolina Moon (2007), the psychic drama Claire (2007) and the ghost story Something Beneath (2007).