New Movie: "Smoke Signals"

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Posted by Ayesha on July 04, 1998 at 12:08:02:

Hi Everybody:

Yesterday the movie "Smoke Signals" opened in our area. We went to
see it last night. It was absolutely fantastic. So beautifully done.

It was extremely well directed. The theatre was sold out. (I think
that is a good sign). Maybe this will usher in more interest in making main stream Native American films. I highly recommend it.

I have copied the reveiw from our local newspaper. I will try to import it in to this letter. My computer skills are not that great yet. The newspaper gave it a four star rating (highest Rating)which
was well deserved.

Smoke' Causes Tears of Sadness, Joy Peter Stack, Chronicle Staff Critic Friday, July 3, 1998

SMOKE SIGNALS: Comedic drama. Starring Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Irene Bedard, Gary Farmer and Tantoo Cardinal. Directed by Chris Eyre. (PG-13. 89 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)

Want to laugh and soak up warmth? Make sure ``Smoke Signals'' is on your list of summer movies to see. No wonder this unpretentious, funny and soulful American Indian movie, opening today, was voted the audience favorite at the Sundance Film Festival this year. It's an experience that, even through moments of tugging sadness, makes you want to cheer. Well-acted, well- written, with spare, beautiful imagery, ``Smoke Signals'' has it nailed.

Adam Beach (``Squanto'') stars as Victor Joseph, a young man who has been estranged from his father for more than a decade. He lives on the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho. Ostensibly the middle of nowhere, it's a breathtaking place touched by the lonesome shouts of amusing, striving humanity.

On the reservation radio station, a traffic spotter transmits his commuter report from the distant and only crossroads -- ``A big truck just went by,'' he says. It's his one sighting of a vehicle of the day.

But life for Victor Joseph is anything but empty. A handsome, strapping guy, he holds in sullen silence a roiling anger over his dad's desertion of the family. The father, Arnold (Gary Farmer, ``Dead Man''), was a good-hearted but moody drunk. When his wife, Arlene (Tantoo Cardinal), couldn't take the booze and the beatings anymore, the old man climbed into his pickup truck and drove away forever.

Victor learns that his father is dead and tries not to care. But he's goaded by a nerdy friend, Thomas Builds-the-fire (Evan Adams), into traveling to Phoenix, Ariz., to collect the remains. They have only a small amount of cash, some of it donated by Thomas, but it's enough to take the bus most of the way.

``Smoke Signals'' is the first major feature film written, directed by and starring Indians, and it looks at Indian life in a down-to-earth yet irreverent way that focuses on its engaging characters. It was written by Spokane, Wash., novelist Sherman Alexie, based on stories from his book ``The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.''

Chris Eyre, a Cheyenne from Klamath Falls, Ore. directed the film with heartening sensitivity toward the plain spoken lyricism of the characters. Beautiful in both it's brevity and its vision of contemporary Indian culture, the film abounds in easygoing humor. ``Smoke Signals'' is, at heart, about the meaning of family and connections, but it also clicks as an on-the-road adventure with Victor and Thomas playing off each other.

The sullen, skeptical Victor is clearly annoyed by his sidekick's wacky stories and dorky way of dressing. He urges Thomas to get cooler clothes and affect a tough-guy swagger -- ``you gotta look like a warrior,'' he says.

But Thomas is an irrepressible spirit whose talk is more than nattering --he has an uncanny ability to seize on wisdom at the same time he's going for a cheap laugh.

``Smoke Signals'' jumps back and forth between the present journey of Victor and Thomas and the past when the father, Arnold, was still around the reservation. The flash backs, at first a bit jarring, are visualizations of some of Thomas' stories on the bus, and they gradually reveal facets of Arnold's character as a caring man whose great tragedy was to be poisoned by alcohol. When the two get to the reservation near Phoenix where the father died in his trailer, they meet a young woman named Suzy Song (Irene Bedard), who had befriended the old man. She fills in important blanks for Victor about what became of his father.

It will be hard to find a dry eye in the house by the time ``Smoke Signals'' reaches its destination -- but those tears will be a wonderful mix of sadness and joy.

Let me know if this post worked. I have put a few posts on the board
in the past few days, but am not sure they worked.



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