The 76th Cannes Film Festival in France kicked off with Killers of the Flower Moon as one of the most talked about films. At the end of the film’s world premiere, the audience applauded for a Cannes record-breaking nine minutes.
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Killers of the Flower Moon is a masterpiece with a luxurious cast, with American Hall of Fame director Martin Scorsese at the helm, and Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio and his idol Robert De Niro, whom he has admired since he was a child, on the same stage. The trio of heavyweight filmmakers were instantly recognisable on the red carpet at Cannes.
Killers of the Flower Moon For a blockbuster film of nearly three and a half hours long to be shortlisted for the world’s most coveted film awards, apart from good creators and performances, a good screenplay is also crucial. After all, the Festival de Cannes has always been a benchmark for literary creativity and the definition of a good story.
The screenplay of the film Killers of the Flower Moon is adapted from the book of the same name by renowned American non-fiction writer David Greene. At first glance at the title, one would think that it is a flamboyant mystery, but in fact the book recounts one of the bloodiest crimes in the history of American crime – the Orange series of murders, which directly led to the birth of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
This is not a fictional story from an Agatha detective novel, but a true crime. The author has found a wealth of then-unreleased source documents as historical material, and the descriptions of the original sins of American history – racial discrimination and abuse of power – “read with the pace and thrill of a thriller film, but also with the authenticity and shock of first-hand field reports.”
In the 1920s, the richest people in the world, on a per capita basis, were the Osage Indians of Oklahoma, USA – their reservations were barren of grass but harboured rich reserves of oil.
But the oil was a death curse, and one by one the Ozekis began to die, and those who tried to investigate the murders were brutally murdered. When the death toll reaches 24, the newly formed Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officially steps in and takes over the case.
These were the first major cases handled by the agency. However, the FBI had a rough time of it, and was at a loss when it came to the case. In desperation, John Edgar Hoover, the young head of the rookie agency, approached Tom White, a former Texas State Trooper, to turn things around.
White assembled a secret squad.Through their efforts, the truth about one of the most chilling racial incidents in the history of the American West – the “Orange murders” – is revealed.
In the 1920s, as a result of the development of the West after the American Civil War, the Native Americans had to be driven from their ancestral hunting grounds to reservations, and one of them, the Osage, discovered oil on their reservation.
As if these industrial-age bloodsheds were a gift from heaven to the enduring Indians, Oseiji’s sudden wealth shocked the nation.
But the white man was so enamoured of the heavenly riches that the U.S. government made it mandatory for each Indian to appoint a white guardian to take charge of his finances.
Many Indians had to choose their own spouses or close white friends as guardians. Starting in 1920, like a chain reaction, a number of wealthy Osage Indians died strangely. The family of the well-to-do heroine – Molly’s family – then suffered untimely deaths in the space of just a few years.
And paradoxically, both the local legal department and the private investigator hired by the Indian chief have been killed in their investigations. At this point, Molly’s health also begins to deteriorate.
The Orange community is overshadowed by the horrors of murder, and the series of mysterious deaths is finally on the FBI’s desk. With the people of Ozaukee becoming so rich from oil, is this pure coincidence? Or is it an indelible shadow of death?
Conspiracies are unimaginable to those of us who live in peace. It’s a secret trick, cold, precise, specialised, never known to us. We are flawed, naive people who only make rough estimates of our humdrum daily lives.
The masterminds of conspiracies have a logical mind and an adventurous spirit that eludes us. All conspiracies have one thing in common: their execution is a tense story about people who achieve their life goals in criminal behaviour.
Thus, the second part of the book is interspersed with puzzling cases about FBI Agent White and an elite team he leads, who are on the verge of uncovering the truth behind the cover-up.
The Indians are intimidated and persecuted under Orange’s festering justice system, in which the local police have no motivation or ability to solve cases. The federal government had to intervene, and the FBI became the main force in solving the case.
The FBI’s investigations were difficult due to local abuse of power. In the course of the investigation, the police, represented by White, eventually uncovered the truth about the Orange murders – that white guardians were murdering Indian spouses in order to speed up the process of legalising the inheritance of wealth.
Although the outcome of the trial has long been recorded, in order to restore the hardship of White and others in exposing institutional racial discrimination, the author of this book has found a large number of confidential files and witness statements at the time. Behind the surfacing of this evidence is a group of people who demonstrated their conscience and wisdom in the process of pursuing legal justice.
As a sensational murder case in the United States, the Bureau of Investigation embodied the modern scientific process of handling the case was also presented by the media to the whole country, winning public and political acclaim, and it was because of the successful detection of this case that the United States formally set up the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which has more resources and more power.
In the final part of Killers of the Flower Moon, the author returns to the ghostly town of Orange, where most of the towns that once thrived on oil are now “dead”.
History is a merciless judge, it will bring to light the pain we have experienced, expose our most intimate humanity, and wield the stick of hindsight.
Although the culprit in the Molly case has been caught, most of the murders of that year remain unsolved, and a sense of generation across history pervades this city of tragedy. The author interviewed local Indian descendants in the hope of learning more details about the events of that time, but found that Molly’s case was only the tip of the iceberg of institutional discrimination that erased the culture of the aboriginal people.
The past floats in the wind, the horror and hatred of the past has long since dissipated, but the land is still imprinted with the trauma of the innocent. During the interviews, the author was also commissioned by others to investigate the strange deaths of their ancestors.
Killers of the Flower Moon Despite a whodunit-style search for information and analysis of one of the incidents, the author still struggles to draw judicially valid conclusions. “This land, soaked in blood.” He returned to the National Archives and again searched through uncountable files, still with the voice of the descendants of the Oseije murders echoing in his ears, “This land, soaked in blood.”