The Beauty and Brutality of “War Pony”

“It’s not often you see a coming-of-age story set on a Native American reservation. It’s rarer still to find a Native American story that’s told with such sensitivity as ‘War Pony’. It heads to Pine Ridge – the poorest reservation in the United States – to tell the story of Bill and Matho, two young men who are trapped by the circumstances that surround them.” R. Leston, IGN, May 24, 2022

War Pony. Photograph- Felix Culpa


Excerpt: A gut-wrenching slice of reservation life with a story of false promises and redemption. By Ryan Leston, IGN, May 24, 2022

“The twists and turns of reservation life keep both Bill and the young Matho from living up to their potential – but that’s only half the story.

On the surface, War Pony seems to be a cautionary tale, depicting the young men hustling, dealing drugs, and otherwise sinking into a life of crime. But there’s no judgment here. Instead, War Pony is a story of potential redemption, highlighting just how difficult it is to break out of these patterns.

t’s refreshing to see this tale told with a subtlety and sensitivity that goes unmatched. The filmmakers may not be Native American themselves, but War Pony is far from exploitative.

War Pony | You Tube Clip

Bill (Jojo Bapteise Whiting) is 23 years old, a two-bit hustler with a cheeky smile. But his heart is sort of in the right place – cooking up elaborate (and often ludicrous) plans to get him and his family back on their feet. His latest grasp at The American Dream is a poodle called Beast. If he can get $1000, he can buy the dog, breeding its puppies to sell for thousands. But when you’re down on your luck, it’s never quite that simple.

LaDainian Crazy Thunder & Willi White, War Pony Photographed by Jai Lennard for TheWrap

Matho (LaDainian Crazy Thunder), meanwhile, is only 12 years old. Desperately seeking his father’s approval, he’s already following the same path as Bill. And while the two don’t know each other, they have a lot more in common than they would realize.


scene from War Pony

Both are keen to distance themselves from the Native American ways practiced by those around them, with Bill driving through town blaring hip-hop music from his beat-up old car while others travel around on horseback…War Pony tells a surprisingly personal story of two young men trapped by their circumstances.

War Pony- a scene from the film

Challenging perceptions of life on the poorest Native American reservation, the film highlights the struggles they face while desperately trying to grasp at a better life…with a touch of Native American storytelling, you’re reminded that their roots might just provide them with a way out.”

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