Smoke Signals, Smoke SIgnals Movie Review, Movie Review, Film Review
Michael A. Maynez   photo

"Smoke Signals"

The odyssey of friendship and coming to grips with reality and maturity are the basis for an unusual story line. It is billed as the first full-length feature movie written, directed and co-produced by native Americans.  The unpretentiousness with which its handled by all involved makes it the more palatable. Director Chris Eyre and screenwriter Sherman Alexie have forged a beautifully photographed tale.

The friendship of two young men on their way to maturity is investigated with charm, warmth and humor. They both emerge from Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation.  Victor played with incredibly good looks by Adam Beach, finds out that his father died of a heart attack in Phoenix and is determined to bring his ashes to his mother. He has no funds and his friend, the talkative Evan  Adams as Thomas Builds- The-Fire has a jar of money he has collected over some time. He is willing to share, if he can come along for the trip with his friend. They form a bonding with many humorous incidents, in give and take situations that builds their character and makes the transformation from young men to mature young men.

There is such rich material, about an abusive father, a fire, a young Victor being thrown out of an upstairs window while the house is aflame.  The cast abounds with great characterizations by Irene Bedard, Gary Farmer, Tantoo Cardinal and small cameo that is very telling by Tom Skerritt.  Brian Capener’s photography is like a travelogue through the dessert, without the logue.  The music is equally haunting , with a score by B. C. Smith which handles the subconscience of the Indian flutes and drums, besides the modern musical interludes.

This is a wonderful testament  to the independence  of  the independent motion picture making .  Stories that might never have been film. It is based on a story called “The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Fistfight In Heaven”.   “Smoke Signals” seems more appropriate.

Smoke Signals

Adam Beach ------- Victor Joseph
Evan Adams ------- Thomas Builds-the-Fire
Irene Bedard ------ Suzy Song
Gary Farmer ------- Arnold Joseph
Tantoo Cardinal ---- Arlene Joseph
Cody Lightning ----- Young Victor Joseph
Simon Baker ------- Young Thomas Builds-the-Fire
Tom Skerritt -------- Police Chief

Director --------------- Chris Eyre
Producer ------------- Larry Estes, Scott M. Rosenfelt
Co-producer --------- Sherman Alexie, Chris Eyre
Camera --------------- Brian Capener
Film Editing ----------- Brian Berdan
Costume Design by -- Ron Leamon
Screenplay by  ------- Sherman Alexie
Rated PG-13 for some intense images.

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Original Date Tuesday 11 August 1998