A New York Post review of the new movie Out of the Furnace that refers to the Ramapough Indian tribe as “New Jersey hillbillies” has sparked outrage amongst local community leaders who say it wrongly depicts the diverse, unified nature of Mahwah.
Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry joined Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet and Mahwah Schools Superintendent Lauren Schoen at a press conference in town hall Wednesday afternoon speaking out against the language used in the review.
In its review, the Post refers to the “Ramapough Mountain Indians” as “hillbillies who live in a self-contained world of drugs, violence and trailer homes…The impoverished Ramapoughs have long been ridiculed for their unsophisticated ways, including feasting on squirrel. They get around their mostly unpaved roads on ATVs. Tribe members are known to largely marry among themselves.”
The review also states that the film is based on the tribe, and depicts members as “violent.”
Laforet said Wednesday that he is “deeply concerned” about the content of the review.
“The article wrongly characterizes the residents of Stag Hill,” Laforet said in his statement.
“This type of stereotype only serves to foster hostility, intimidation, and bullying.”
Schoen added that diversity is embraced throughout the Mahwah community, and the spread of negative stereotypes affects the entire township.
“We are embracing the Ramapough Indian nation together…These are our children, our parents, and our employees. A movie like this goes against everything we believe in, in our township and in our schools. When a movie deals in negative stereotypes…we are all diminished.”
Perry spoke out against the article and the film, which he said “appears to be a racist paradigm that has been forced upon my people for so many years.”
The three said Wednesday that they have not yet seen the film, which opens Friday. They said they were not contacted during its production, and have not been able to get in touch with either the producers or the film, or with the NY Post.
“If indeed what the Post has reported is a true [interpretation of the movie]…why?" Perry asked. "Why the hatred? Why the reliving of what is obviously racism and bigotry throughout history toward the [Ramapough] people.”
Official publications from the movie’s distributors do not echo the language used in the movie review.
Relativity Media, the company producing the film, officially describes the plot of the film as centering around Casey Affleck’s character getting, “lured into one of the most ruthless crime rings in the Northeast,” and his brother’s (played by Christian Bale) quest to retrieve him.
A review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette refers to the action of the film taking place in New Jersey’s Ramapo Mountains, but does not reference the Ramapough Lenape nation.
However, Woody Harrelson’s character in the film, who runs an underground fighting ring in the mountains, does reportedly have the last name “DeGroat,” a popular surname in the Ramapough community.
"It is [unforgivable] to use anyone's name, or anyone's child...and portray them in that negative light," Perry said.
Relativity did not respond to a request for comment about the film, and spokespeople for the Post did not respond to a request for comment about the review.
In Mahwah, officials are asking residents to reject the characterization made in the review, and embrace an attitude of unity.
“This is a time that citizens should welcome and embrace the culture of the Ramapough Mountain Lenape Indians so they have a better understanding of what they have contributed to our culture,” Laforet said.