AFI Fest: 'Hostiles' Cast Encourages Political Unity Through Storytelling

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From left: om Cross, Ben Foster, Festival Director for AFI FEST Jacqueline Lyanga, Wes Studi, Q'orianka Kilcher, Scott Cooper, Stella Cooper, Ava Cooper, and Timothee Chalamet

The Western stars Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi and Ben Foster.

Hostiles celebrated its Los Angeles premiere Tuesday night, and although stars Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike weren't in attendance, Wes Studi, Ben Foster, Q'orianka Kilcher and more walked the carpet at Hollywood's TCL Chinese Theatre as part of the American Film Institute's AFI Fest. 

The film, a Western set in 1892, tells the story of an Army captain (Bale) who is ordered to escort a dying Native American chief (Studi) and his family back to their tribal lands. While on their journey from New Mexico to Montana, they encounter a woman (Pike) whose entire family has been killed and help her though the dangerous territory. 

For director Scott Cooper, whose previous projects include Crazy Heart and Black Mass, his goal was to "shed light on a segment of Native American life we don't normally see." 

"The film doesn't shy away from our past, our incredibly terrible treatment of Native Americans," he told The Hollywood Reporter at the premiere. "It's also really a journey of the soul for all of these characters and I will say that more that any film I've made, this has educated me about a world I didn't know before."

Cooper, who also wrote and produced Hostiles, sees a connection between his movie, about two men from very different backgrounds overcoming their differences, and the political division in America today, even though the film is set more than 100 years ago. 

"I don't know if we've ever been as polarized as we are, certainly not for some time," he said. "Hopefully the characters in the film can spark a conversation about reconciliation that we as Americans so desperately need."

Studi, who is Cherokee, had to learn Cheyenne for his role, and since most of the film is set outdoors, that meant working in all conditions, including "in the sun, in the rain, in the wind, in the lightning — everything you can imagine." Like Cooper, Studi said he wants the movie to spark dialogue about unity in this political climate, hoping they can help "turn things around a little bit."

The daughter of the Native American chief is played by Kilcher, who said that she had dreamed of being in a Western since she was a little girl and felt even luckier to have Bale and Studi as co-stars. She told THR that this movie is more powerful than ever "with everything that's going on in the world today."

"I feel as human beings, we really need to start focusing on the things that bring us together rather than the things that divide us and realize that we're all in this together," she said. "We're all brothers and sisters and that doesn't matter color, race, religion, where you come from at the end of the day."

Hostiles will open in theaters Dec. 22. 

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