In ‘Kind Hearted Woman,’ A Dark, Resilient Family Portrait

In a detailed portrait of the kind of lives rarely given a media spotlight, Robin Poor Bear is an Oglala Sioux woman living on North Dakota's Spirit Lake Reservation. She's facing down incredible odds while fighting to further her education, find her voice and protect her children from the very same abuses she suffered as a child.

[Mature content, viewer discretion advised.]

Part One:

How do you go on?

Filmmaker David Sutherland explores that question tonight in Kind Hearted Woman, a two-part television event from Frontline and Independent Lens.

The five-hour film, aired in two parts on PBS April 1 and 2, focuses on Robin Charboneau, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe in North Dakota. A single mother struggling to raise her two children on the Spirit Lake Nation reservation, Charboneau faces daunting odds living in a community plagued by poverty, alcoholism, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and a systemic unwillingness to address its own worst problems.

Charboneau’s path is made no easier by her own troubled childhood. From the age of 3 she was brutally assaulted by family members, then placed in a foster home at 13. Alcoholism, depression, and troubled relationships with abusive men, including her ex-husband, marked her young adulthood. The couple’s custody battles over their children -- daughter Darian, now 17, and son Anthony, 14 -- frame much of Sutherland’s story, which he began filming in 2008, following Charboneau as she fled the reservation and tried to establish an independent life for herself and her kids.

Part Two:

About Diane Sweet

Diane Sweet's picture
Senior Editor, Lives in a gerrymandered district in Michigan.

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