Rich Hall's Inventing the Indian ★★★★½

Rich Hall has done three previous documentaries for the BBC about various facets of American society as seen in films and, to a lesser extent, literature, theatre and music.

How the West Was Lost discussed Westerns and how the so-called Wild West had been misrepresented by Hollywood, The Dirty South tackled misrepresentations in movies of the Deep South, and Continental Drifters examined the American road movie. All of them were quite splendid documentaries in their own right and, although now difficult to find (come on BBC, don't keep taking this stuff offline if you won't open your bloody archives or release it on DVD or put it back on iPlayer) they are all essential viewing to anyone who has an interest in any of those genres or American cinema as a whole.

Continental Drifters is perhaps the odd-one-out because with Inventing The Indian, Hall returns to misrepresentation, this time of the Indian. Or Native American. Whichever you feel most comfortable with. Although as pointed out in this documentary, neither of them are quite right.

This has a slightly broader scope than his previous documentaries as it takes a look at the history of various tribes and also their portrayal in literature. It is cinema, though, which Hall looks at most of all but delightfully never allows this to become a polemic - even though, considering how the people have been treated in popular culture and society in general, that would have been an entirely fair approach.

With the superb Dallas Goldtooth providing insightful and hilarious support, background and commentary, he also looks at the ways in which movies have got it right as well. It really is a tremendous documentary piece - it's impossible to tell whether this is his best one to date as they have ALL been exceptional and informative pieces of work. That doesn't matter at all, however, and like with his previous BBC4 documentaries, Hall will have you challenging your own opinions on films that could be amongst your favourites - after all, who could like Star Wars as much as they used to after watching this?

But he does it with his trademark dry humour and extraordinary grasp of American history and cinema. He really is a fantastic comedian and documentarian and he, along with Mark Gatiss, are almost reviving documentaries on films by themselves in this country. It's still on BBC iPlayer, and I have an accompanying list once again here.