Actor Kevin Costner has announced he is producing a new documentary series. Along with production company 44 Blue Productions, the Yellowstone star is going to be behind Onward, an anthology series that will focus on the cultural traditions of indigenous peoples globally. The series itself is created by filmmaker Cale Glendening, inspired by his short film of the same name. That earlier version of Onward documented Glendening’s experiences with the Kazakh-Mongolia people of Mongolia. He spent time there with traditional eagle hunters in the Altai Mountains; presumably the Onward anthology will take a similar approach and have either Glendening or other observers directly learn of and from various indigenous peoples and their rituals. Kevin Costner is set to executive produce the series with Glendenings. The Academy Award-nominated Indian-American filmmaker Smriti Mundhra will act as showrunner.
Kevin Costner’s onscreen work has long had a focus on the indigineous peoples of North America. His most successful film, 1990’s Dances with Wolves, centered around a Civil War veteran (played by Costner) who encounters a group of Lakota peoples and slowly forms a rapport with them. The movie was an enormous success, both financially and critically. It was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning seven, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director (especially notable for being Kevin Costner’s directorial debut).
While the film was especially praised for employing indigenous actors and utilizing actual Lakota language for much of the dialogue, it has become more criticized over time. In particular, it was noted that the praised use of the Lakota language was often incorrectly translated and its portrayal of stereotypes of various Native American nations has come under some fire.
Still, Dances with Wolves was credited with reviving the Western film in the 1990s, and inevitably the cinematic profile of indigenous people. Several films followed in its wake by attempting to delve more anthropologically into Native American culture, like 1992’s Last of the Mohicans (starring Daniel Day-Lewis) and 1993’s Geronimo: An American Legend. Kevin Costner remained engaged with both the history of the Native peoples of North America and the colonial westward expansion, opening the Tatanka: The Story of the Bison educational exhibit in South Dakota in 2004. He is also set to direct his first movie in 20 years, Horizon, which covers much of the same history. Costner is also producing and financing the film through his company Territory Pictures, and plans to begin filming in the summer of 2022.
Of course, Kevin Costner is currently most famous for being the extremely well-paid star of Yellowstone, the breakout smash hit of the Paramount Network. The show is the only remaining scripted film on the network and its most popular by far (as well as being one of the most popular network programs in the world, period), and was nominated for a SAG award this year. It has also become some of a flashpoint for cultural and political discussion in the United States. Given that it has already been renewed for a fifth season and has an increasing number of spinoffs, it is sure to be Costner’s main focus for some time.