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The Good Indian Movies [Native American Flix that Don't Suck]

barefoot rabbit
The list author says: "*CHECK BACK OFTEN FOR UPDATES! See list #2 for documentaries & more...and check out The Good NDN Stories, my tewtelly awesome new book list!*

Enough of those Italians who play NDNs! Enough of those new-agey melodramas! Enough of those Indian movies where the white guy is the hero and the real Indian actors are mere accessories or bad guys or noble savages! Enough of those films where the blonde chica hooks up with a Native Fabio! Or where the English actors play medicine people and tell NDNs about their own culture!

So anyway...all the following have been tested and tried. Not all are 100% Native directed/written (one day there will be many many more), but none fit in the above categories, so you can rest assured. They're all GOOD! And they don't suck!

*{{NOTE: Stuff is going to soon get rearranged since Amazon only allows 40 products on one list...so make sure to check list 2.}}"
The Doe Boy
The Doe Boy
"Soon to be everyone's next favorite. Randy Redroad's extraordinary directorial debut is pretty much just great all-around. Well-written, almost perfect story...well casted (James Duval is stellar--by far his best role ever)...creatively shot. A must-see."
Smoke Signals
Smoke Signals
"Everybody's favorite.  The perfect combo of hilarity, story, character & substance."
Dreamkeeper
Dreamkeeper
"Probably the highest budget 'Good Indian Movie' ever made yet.  A beautiful & rich story of stories w/ great character development, humor, and wisdom.  August Schellenberg's best performance."
Skins
Skins
"Probably Eric Schweig's best.  Of course Graham Greene is great too.  Not really the 'dark' tale that the reviewers call it-- plenty of humor and meaningful story. Chris Eyre has yet to do anything even slightly sub-par."
Pow Wow Highway
Pow Wow Highway
"Everybody's first favorite...before Smoke Signals, there was Powwow Highway. Before great quotes from Thomas, there were great quotes from Philbert. Sure, it's flawed; but for 1989? Mad props. Get it >$5 @ deepdiscount. com!"
War Party [VHS]
War Party [VHS]
"For 1988? Mad mad props. Probably the first high-budget NDN film. Once you get past being forced to accept that Dennis Banks & Tantoo Cardinal produced Billy Wirth together, this is quite the film for its time. Black comedy+high drama+quality production+gorgeous Montana location...the script is great, the conflict surprising, & the bizarre storyline amazingly works as it is. [See my review]"
Grand Avenue [VHS]
Grand Avenue [VHS]
"Man, this is sad that people are trying to scalp these hard-to-find movies for an arm and a tooth. So I may have a source for this in DVD--I'll get back to ya'll on that. But yeah, this was an awesome miniseries based on the book by Greg Sarris about some Pomo families in Santa Rosa. Tantoo is everyone's auntie!"
The Snow Walker
The Snow Walker
"Quite the overlooked Good Indian Movie in the US, this Canadian film is quite extraordinary. Almost entirely shot on location, newcomer Annabelle Piugattuk and veteran Barry Pepper give brilliant performances in Charles Martin Smith's career topping work. Based on the book [Walk Well, My Brother] by the ubiquitous Farley Mowat. Oh, and don't worry. White guy and aboriginal girl do NOT hook up."
The Business of Fancydancing
The Business of Fancydancing
"So very Sherman Alexie. So brilliantly creative. So indie filmmaking at its best. This will not everyone's cuppa bitterroot tea--about as far from Hollyweird as you can get...so don't expect the usual and you may enjoy this. Evan Adams is prit-ty awesome as a Gay Urban Indian Poet...yep. And Michelle St. John sings one of the most beautiful songs to end a movie on. See my review for more info…"
The Education of Little Tree
The Education of Little Tree
"Disguised as a 'Family Favorite,' this is actually a multi-layered, gorgeous, complex film with brilliant acting (Tantoo plays her best grandma role here!). Mad props to the Canadians as usual. (Oh yes, and the Appalachian-flavored score by Mark Isham is absolutely brilliant.)"
Edge of America
Edge of America
"Chris Eyre is always fantastic, but this one is breaking new ground. The acting is awesome--James McDaniel, Wes Studi, Irene Bedard, Eddie Spears, and the many first-time actresses all have such a natural chemistry. A great drama I could really feel."
Medicine River [VHS]
Medicine River [VHS]
"This hilarious lo-budget indie ended up about 10x better than the book by Thomas King it was liberally adapted from. The cover sure is weird...makes it look like some TV drama. This is a totally quirky comedy. Rez basketball and babies named South Wing. (And Harlan Bigbear is EXACTLY like I imagined him...you go, Tom Jackson!)"
Map of the Human Heart
Map of the Human Heart
"Beautiful, terribly overlooked Canadian film. The Native actors=amazing (especially Robert Joamie, the kid who plays young Avik); Jason Scott Lee=amazing and fully convincing (for the record, he IS part Native Hawaiian). A number of Native communities were closely involved with production and it shows. In my opinion it's a must-see, but do be forewarned that it doesn't work like a Hollywood flick."
Black Cloud
Black Cloud
"Eddie Spears and Russell Means at their absolute best yet. Keep in mind, though, that this film was written/directed by Rick(y) Schroder, who for some reason cares about tribal sovereignty."
Clearcut [VHS]
Clearcut [VHS]
"Still not on DVD. But here is one amazingly unpolitically-correct story, courtesy of the great thing that is Canadian cinema...depending on who you are, you'll either love it or hate it. But even if it's the latter, come on--it's Graham Greene in the lead! (His only bad films are the ones where he's a bit player, right?) Get it while you still can."
Christmas In The Clouds
Christmas In The Clouds
"Finally, it's on DVD. Hopefully this means it will no longer be overlooked as it has been for the past 5 years. A hilarious, no-baggage movie. There's nothing like a vegetarian Graham Greene and The Indian Romance Book Club."
Dance Me Outside
Dance Me Outside
"~NOW ON DVD!~ Great, quirky Canadian rez story.  Sadly didn't get much attention here in the US when it appeared... Notice how Blockbuster never carries more than 2 Indian movies (you have to go to the artsy fartsy store)?"
Last of the Dogmen
Last of the Dogmen
"A frickin awesome movie...ah, if only the premise wasn't a fantasy. Highish-budget Good Indian movie...gorgeous location (mostly Banff). All NDN cast is Cheyenne (except for Steve Reevis). Gorgeous horses. Great story. The cutest dog you've ever seen. [Btw, you can get this on used VHS for around $8…just won’t have the special features that include commentary and 3 short featurettes.]"
Geronimo - An American Legend
Geronimo - An American Legend
"Wes Studi is a perfect Geronimo.  The extra white characters (Matt Damon, Jason Patric, etc.) add excellent complexity to the story...very well told, very emotive. Btw, if you care, the film got nominated for an Oscar...for sound production. >:["
Geronimo [VHS]
Geronimo [VHS]
"Ryan Rajendra Black & Joseph Runningfox star as Geronimo in this made-for-TV movie. Another great telling--very different from the Wes Studi film. This one begins with his boyhood and explores his backstory more."
Last of His Tribe, The
Last of His Tribe, The
"One of Graham Greene's more complex performances. Wouldn't have thought of casting him, but he completely surprised me, capturing that haunted sense you get from the famous photo of "Ishi, the last Yahi" while bringing a largely non-verbal warmth and intelligence to the story that broadens our perspective of the real man. Wonderfully unmelodramatic—it’s actually more of a unique buddy movie."
Four Sheets to the Wind
Four Sheets to the Wind
"This is good indie Native-made stuff. So far, non-filmish white folks don't seem to dig it; Amazon reviewers have been kind, but I've read a lot of "boring" "depressing" "slow" reviews). But this is really, really good unselfconscious stuff. Tamara Podemski (Dance Me Outside) is *incredible*; Cody Lightning (his most famousest role being young Victor in Smoke Signals) carries his lead brilliantly."
Lost in the Barrens
Lost in the Barrens
"Excellent acting, particularly by the young Evan Adams--but the no-longer-acting white kid is great, too. Typical fascinating Farley Mowat survival plot. Graham Greene supporting and Adam Beach cameo. Impressive production design, photography, and animal stunts! And the snow is real...gotta love those Canadian crews who are willing to brave anything."
Black Robe
Black Robe
"No flowing Pantene hair, no pristine tipis, no romanticized Indian life, no punches pulled.  Very intense story--not to be missed."
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
"Unique storytelling angle and complex performances by Gordon, August, & Adam. I've heard some say they had mixed feelings about the portrayal of Sitting Bull [it’s painful]. But I felt it actually captured a deeper tragedy behind the events (that other films don’t bring out): the way the government manipulated tribes and tribal members by humiliating and setting them against each other."
Thunderheart
Thunderheart
"I held off seeing this for a long time as I was annoyed that Val Kilmer was cast as a “part-Indian.” But hey, I was wrong. The story’s tight, Fusco's script is smart as usual, Apted's direction is pro as usual, and Graham Greene is awesome as usual. Plus, this was Sheila Tousey's first film, as was it the wonderful late Ted Thin Elk's (and he steals every scene he's in)."
The Song of Hiawatha
The Song of Hiawatha
"This will not be everyone's cuppa tea. But I, personally, was pleasantly surprised. You just have to remember that this is BASED ON AN EPIC POEM...thus, you have to watch it that way, like a story-story rather than a film-story-- somehow they pull it off without disconnecting. Litefoot as Hiawatha is understated and convincing--definitely earned his role--and Adam Beach is great as his quirky BFF."
Lakota Woman - Siege at Wounded Knee [VHS]
Lakota Woman - Siege at Wounded Knee [VHS]
"Irene Bedard plays Mary Crow Dog well in one of her earlier roles. Made for TV so some elements are kind of sanitized, but it was a good intro to the public of AIM and Pine Ridge in the 70's. Hard to find now, so get it while you can."
Tecumseh:the Last Warrior [VHS]
Tecumseh:the Last Warrior [VHS]
"See Tantoo Cardinal play Tecumseh's mom-- soon to be EVERYONE's mom!!"
Into the West
Into the West
"Spielberg's all-stars TV series was really good stuff--but these DVDs were unbelievably over-edited/sanitized--we should all demand that the real thing be released. (Example: Wounded Knee massacre massively edited down. Can you believe it?!)"
The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat)
The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat)
"Again, this will *not* be everyone's cup o sassafras tea. But it's extremely notable and worth seeing if you care about all-Native made films. This was an amazing tribal project, and it's so well done--the DP deserves plaudits in particular. One thing that takes awhile  to get past (but you have a LONG time to do so): it's shot on video. You wish, wish, wish they had the money to shoot it on film."
Squanto: A Warrior's Tale
Squanto: A Warrior's Tale
"See young Adam Beach, Irene Bedard & Eric Schweig play historical figures! So it's a Disney movie, but it sure beats a Pilgrim-encrusted video to show your kids at Thanksgiving. Actually really well done in spite of its sketchy historical accuracy."
The Broken Chain [VHS]
The Broken Chain [VHS]
"Another Eric Schweig in historical garb movie, made for TV.  Worthy of mention as it's about the Iroquois Confederacy... great for 'educational purposes.' And don't worry...Pierce Bronson does NOT play an Indian. (And may those days never come again!)"
Luna: Spirit of the Whale
Luna: Spirit of the Whale
"This made-for-APTV Canadian movie was loosely based on real events that took place in BC around Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nations Reserve. The story is good, but the thing that kept it from being just decent was the great acting by Adam, Tantoo (you're my mom AGAIN?!), and Graham. The kid, Aaron Miko, does a great job in his first role, too. Some great canoeing and orca-handling action for sure."
Son of The Morning Star [VHS]
Son of The Morning Star [VHS]
"This film focuses more on (cough) Custer than Crazy Horse (played by Rodney Grant (of Dances w/ Wolves fame), but nevertheless is an excellent, accurate Crazy Horse movie. Their stories are told in parallel, & aren't very romanticized as you might expect."
Windtalkers (Special Director's Edition)
Windtalkers (Special Director's Edition)
"So it's a Hollyweird war movie--but Adam Beach plays an enormously convincing role as a Navajo Codetalker, totally and completely blowing Nicolas Cage out of the water. You really believe he's Dine. He's what makes this story work."
Sunchaser [VHS]
Sunchaser [VHS]
"Great indie flick. Almost doesn't make the "no Latino NDNs"; Jon Seda is Puerto Rican and plays a Navajo dude. He IS Taino PR Native, though, so I guess he works. And he's pretty good. Only really bad thing is the crazy soundtrack. You forgive it b/c this is lo-budget, but it's just hideous/hilarious--50's orchestra deal that buzzes through the whole movie—no rhyme or reason."
A Thief of Time
A Thief of Time
"All three PBS Tony Hillerman movies (Skinwalkers, Coyote Waits, and Thief of Time) are enjoyable. Don't expect anything too deep, but Adam Beach and Wes Studi are always such a pleasure to watch in action that you don't even have to care about the plot. Notable in this one is first-time actor Kelly Byars, who plays the hysterical Delbert Tsosie and weirdly hasn't shown up on any other films since."
Sioux City
Sioux City
"Lou Diamond Phillips' tries his hand at directing.  Not stunning, but generally worth seeing as Phillips plays a guy adopted by a white family. This subject has been done before, and unfortunately, it never quite works. I include this with reservations, but for its genre (TV drama-mystery), it works."
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