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Smoke Signals (1998)

Cast: Adam Beach, Adam Beach, Evan Adams, more...
Director: Chris Eyre, Chris Eyre
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Rating:
Studio: Miramax
Genre: Independent, Quest, Road Movies
Running Time: 89 min.
Languages: English
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Synopsis
This dramatic feature was written, directed, and co-produced by Native Americans. Native American writer Sherman Alexie scripted this adaptation of his 1993 short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Director Chris Eyre's previous short Someone Kept Saying Powwow is incorporated into the 88-minute feature. Developed at the Sundance Lab in 1995, the film was a winner of both the Audience Award and the Filmmakers' Trophy at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. In 1976, an infant survives a fire that kills his parents. In a flash forward to the present day, the infant has grown up to become the skinny, nerdy adult Thomas (Evan Adams). At Idaho's desolate Coeur d'Alene Indian reservation, the overeager youth is mostly ignored by others, including stoic athletic Victor Joseph (Adam Beach), even though it was Victor's father, alcoholic Arnold Joseph (Gary Farmer), who saved the infant Thomas' life in the fire. A drunken Arnold later abandoned his family, and Victor hasn't seen his father in a decade. When Victor learns of Arnold's death in Phoenix, Thomas offers to pay for the trip to Phoenix if he can accompany Victor. They make an odd couple since Victor is embarrassed by Thomas' geekiness. In Phoenix, they find that Arnold lived in a small trailer in the desert, and they meet Arnold's friend Suzy Song (Irene Bedard), who provides disturbing truths about Arnold that impact on Victor. ~ Bhob Stewart, All Movie Guide

You might also enjoy:
Skinwalkers
Chris Eyre and Adam Beach teamed up again for this excellent adaptation of the Tony Hillerman reservation-set mystery

Incident at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story
Searing documentary about the Native American activist who may have been falsely imprisoned for murder


GreenCine Member Reviews

Accurate and compelling by jmwagner66 January 14, 2012 - 8:49 PM PST
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I live and work in the place where this film is set. I saw it being filmed. The film feels absolutely familiar to me as far as real events, real people, the accent and the look of the characters. Obviously not all members of the Tribe are represented in a single film, but the characters are familiar in the same way that the characters in "The Straight Story" are familiar to Iowans. As for the reviewer who claims that Suzi Song is "too pretty" to be a loner...wtf? She isn't a "loner" she's a career woman in health care administration. And why wouldn't she be pretty whether or not she's a loner? There are stunningly beautiful people in all walks of life, all cultures and all locations. Beauty is not the province of the rich and social.

The dialogue, for example the discussions of Indianness, sovereignty, and money, are common. The humor is wonderful and real. And yes, it is sad. But it depends on where the film plays. I saw it in a theater in Spokane, Washington (near the reservation with many Native Americans in the audience) and it played as a comedy. I saw it in the midwest with nary a Tribal member in attendance and people cried throughout the film.

Alexie's other films have been edgier and harder to view for mainstream audiences. He remains a powerful writer who will hopefully someday get his due in filmdom.

Real life with funny parts by lividsnails January 23, 2005 - 5:05 PM PST
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2 out of 5 members found this review helpful
Who the hell said this was a comedy??? This is no comedy! I cried all the way through it. This is real life, with funny parts. Sherman Alexie is one of the greatest writers of the 20th/21st century and he's proven himself to be a real Renaissance man. Not only did he write this screenplay version of his book but he also wrote several of the songs! (The soundtrack has others by such artists as Dar Williams and Walaila which fit as perfectly into the movie as his own.)

It's easier to pinpoint what's wrong with a bad movie than it is to pinpoint what's right with a good one. Everything's right about this movie. It overwhelmingly leaves you thinking about the reality of its story rather anything about the medium which is what good books and movies are supposed to do. That said I'll just say I overwhelmingly disagree with the previous reviews. The characters are profound and complete, non-stereotypes; the protagonist(s) evolve, the imagery is realistic and beautiful. The storyline is unscripted and original and surprising. I think Alexie 's writing is deceivingly simple and puristic on the outside but juicy and complex inside.


This is a beautiful movie.

ms.lividsnails

Read my blog: Lucky White Girl

reservation life deserves better by jleeman August 6, 2004 - 7:31 AM PDT
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2 out of 4 members found this review helpful
The humor is too gentle, and the drama too generic and predictable to save this movie from blandness. The attempts at Native American profundity and poetry fall flat, as do the reflections on father-son relations. Except for Evan Adams, the actors are unengrossing, and Suzy Song is much, much too beautiful to play the disaffected loner who loves the absentee father. But the viewing experience is redeemed by the Evan Adams character's zest for storytelling, respect for tradition, and unguarded affection for everyone he knows and meets.

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GreenCine Member Rating
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(Average 6.90)
214 Votes
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May the Road Trip Rise Up to Meet You
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A list of road trip movies!
Cinenaut
IndigenousClassics
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Films of/by/about Indigenous People that I like
jmwagner66

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