Smoke Signals

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Review, by Robin J. Schwartz

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Simply put, Chris Eyre's Smoke Signals is a superbly told, deeply moving portrait of coming to terms with one's father. His direction of novelist/screenwriter Sherman Alexie's tale of a young man's journey to retrieve his estranged father's body for burial is full of the kind of truth, spirit, and insight that only a remarkably original and genuine voice can offer.

The chronicle of athletic and charming Victor Joseph from the Salmon Indian Reservation really begins when he learns of his father's premature and sudden death. With no money, he accepts the offer of his quirky and garrulous childhood buddy, Thomas-Builds-the-Fire, to pay for the trip, but only if he goes along. Their ensuing odyssey becomes an exploration of social and personal being, but this is not a typical account laced with angst and despair. Eyre and Alexie have fused their cultural legacy with a cinematic vision that is fresh, honest, and deeply cynical of the trite images and ideas about what it is to be Indian in America.

Funny, raging, poignant, and revealing, Smoke Signals is a story told from a very personal point of view. As specific as it is, its payoffs are powerfully universal. Adam Beach heads a wonderful cast which includes Evan Adams as Thomas, and Gary Farmer and Tantoo Cardinal as Victor's parents. It is not novel enough to say that this is the first dramatic film directed and written by Native Americans. This film is blessed with inspiration.

- Geoffrey Gilmore

Directed by: Chris Eyre
Written by: Sherman Alexie
Starring: Tantoo Cardinal, Irene Bedard, Adam Beach, Eve Adams, Gary Farmer
Produced by: Larry Estes, Scott M. Rosenfelt
Original Music by: B.C. Smith

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