Stars: Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Irene Bedard, Gary Farmer, Tantoo Cardinal
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 89 minutes
Based on a couple of short stories (from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven) by Sherman Alexie, Smoke Signals is a lean and assured feature that speaks well of its lengthy, rich evolution, including a development stint at Sundance. The first feature made by a Native American crew and creative team, the film concerns two young Idaho men with radically different memories of one Arnold Joseph (Gary Farmer), a former resident of the reservation who split years before and has just died in Phoenix. Arnold's strapping, popular son, Victor (Adam Beach), remembers him best as an alcoholic, occasionally abusive father who drove off one day and never came back. By contrast, Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams), whom Arnold had saved from certain death years earlier, has chosen to exaggerate the man's life and deeds in a mythmaking fashion that drives Victor crazy. Circumstances bring the two together, however, in a bus ride to retrieve Arnold's ashes. There, in Phoenix, a confrontation with the reality of the dead man's fullest legacy has a profound effect on both characters. Alexie, who wrote the script and was personally involved in all aspects of the production, and first-time director Chris Eyre are so polished in their approach that you can barely feel the cinematic engine at work here. This is the kind of movie in which the characters seem to be driving everything forward, a captivating and pleasant experience that gets a little too tidy at the end (can we call a moratorium on scenes of human ashes lovingly disposed to the winds?), but which is undeniably moving. The cast, including Irene Bedard (the voice of and physical inspiration for Disney's Pocahontas) is outstanding. --Tom Keogh
You gotta look mean or people won't respect you. White people will run all over you if you don't look mean. You gotta look like a warrior! You gotta look like you just came back from killing a buffalo!
But our tribe never hunted buffalo - we were fishermen.
What! You want to look like you just came back from catching a fish? This ain't "Dances With Salmon" you know!
You guys got your passports?
Yeah, you're leavin' the rez and goin' into a whole different country, cousin.
But... but, it's the United States.
Damn right it is! That's as foreign as it gets. Hope you two have your vaccinations.
Good morning, this is Randy Peone on KREZ radio, the voice of the Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation. And it's time for the morning traffic report on this rainy Bicentennial Fourth of July. Let's go out to Lester Fallsapart in the KREZ traffic van broken down at the crossroads.
Big truck just went by... now it's gone.
Well, there you go folks. Looks like another busy morning.
Your father saved my life
Thomas you don't even know my father. Did you know that my father was the one that set your parent's house on fire? Did you know that my father beat my mother? Did you know that my father beat me too?
All I know is that when your father left your mother lost you too.
Thomas I wish that fire had killed you.
Victor LOOK OUT!
This man apparantly wants to press charges against you. He said and I "you assaulted him and pushed him to the ground".
Mr Joseph there's no need for that type of language. Mr Johnson's daughter Holly says he's, and I quote, "a drunken asshole". So you two are free to go.