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Victor lives in the tension of this dilemma. As a 12-year-old youth, he witnessed the effects of alcohol on his family. His father vascillated between being loving and instantly "turning" to become hostile, violent, and humiliating to the young boy. Victor finds himself becoming more deeply embarrassed by his family's domestic abuse and alcohol use, even defiantly scolding his own father that his favorite Indian is "Nobody...nobody...nobody!"
Victor's mother awakens the next morning to see Victor angrily smashing his father's beer bottles on the back of his father's picup truck (the two things he believes his father loves more than him), and the epiphany stuns the mother, who insists on an immediate end to family drunkenness. Proving Victor's fears true, the father--forced to choose between alcohol and family--flees the family, and never returns. It is within that unchanged arrangement that his father dies, 8 years later, having never returned home.Read more ›
The majority of the cast is from a variety of Canadian First Nations tribes (Coast Salish, Cree, Cayuga, Ojibwa), so there are different cultural backgrounds at work as well. "Smoke Signals" is a journey of the heart, an exploration of what it means to be Indian, venturing into the world outside the rez. Thomas's stories are part Indian legend, part reweaving of the facts surrounding Victor and his father.
The story follows Victor Joseph as he goes to collect the remains of his father, who had abandoned his family and moved to Arizona (the film's working title was "This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona," based on a chapter of "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven." His wise friend Thomas Builds-the-Fire goes with him on a trip from their rez in Coeur-d'Alene, Idaho to Arnold Joseph's trailer in Arizona. Along the way they rediscover their pasts and their perceptions of the world around them.
An unusual, touching film that pokes fun at the stoic Indian stereotypes endorsed by Hollywood for decades, such as the "It's a good day to die" line. There are many notable First Nations actors (Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Tantoo Cardinal, Irene Bedard, Gary Farmer, Elaine Miles) that make this film a joy to watch. Inspired performances from all, especially Adam Beach and Gary Farmer. This is my favourite film of the last few years as it never loses its humour, mystical side, and beauty.
Most of the emotional bite is taken from Sherman Alexie's "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" leaving a great yet simple story about two Indians (Alexie himself dislikes the label "Native American") on the road from the upper Northwest to Arizona. The mission: collect the remains of the father of Victor Joseph-- played with great complexity by Adam Beach. Along for the ride is Thomas, the local reservation geek who brings along with him a vast array of stories from the past mixed with humor and pain played with resilence by Evan Adams, to the constant annoyance of Victor who has no time for stories or memories, only "truth" and the present tense.
This movie is a series of vignettes as the two travel off the reservation ("You're leavin' the Rez and going into a whole different country cousin." "But it's the United States." "Damn right it is, that's as foreign as it gets!") and into the wilderness of forgotten memories and rough landscape. Mixed in with the ponderings of what it means to be indeginous in America and who makes the best fry-bread is a great soundtrack which includes Dar Williams and Ulali.
This movie does not try to be more than it is: the story of two young men trying to find their place in the world with humor and anger. Director Chris Eyre keeps the story and the settings simple and the flashbacks flow fluidly from one iteration to the next.
I would highly recommend this movie to anyone!
For starters, there are so many classic lines in this film. The first being that line I used as the subject for this review. "It is a good day to be Indigenous." I don't think we hear that everyday! The negative view of native people even today is really disturbing, and I think when people regardless of background see the portrayal of indigenous people in films, television shows, literature and education it continues to horrify and astound us all.
Secondly, the story is a wonderful and important one that I think everyone can relate to. It touches on the theme of fathers and the relationship with their children. Victor (Adam Beach) is an bitter, angry and distrustful young man who grew up on the Coeur D'Alene "Rez" with his bespectacled friend/nemesis Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams). These young men are growing up in a culture separate from mainstream white culture--a culture they eventually leave when they go to retrieve the ashes of Victor's deceased father. What starts out as a road trip turns into something more significant than either of them could've imagined.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It had some cool moments, a few tears and some laughter but also a little slow in placesPublished 1 day ago by Lori K
Interesting movie gives a Native American's perspective as well as an every child's perspective on forgiveness, growth, friendship and moving forward.Published 4 days ago by Rockabillie
Love the acting and support anything Native American created.Published 14 days ago by Diane Benitez
I enjoyed this storyline immensely and loved the actors. So much tenderness and realness in the plot. Had to buy the soundtrack for the John Wayne riff. Read morePublished 16 days ago by Palimpsest Inquest
I had read five of Alexi Sherman's books and was anxious to see this movie. It was very well done.Published 1 month ago by Barbara J Kohler
My all time FAV - great cast; Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Tantoo Cardinal, Gary Farmer, and the beautiful and talented Irene Bedard! Words cannot describe the beauty of this film.Published 1 month ago by Dave B