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"Smoke Signals," written by Coeur D'Alene Sherman Alexie, directed by Cheyenne/Arapaho Chris Eyre, and starring American Indians, is structured as a picturesque "road movie." Based on Alexie's short story collection, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Smoke Signals depicts a journey from the Coeur D'Alene reservation in Idaho to Phoenix by two teenage Indians, Victor Joseph (Adam Beach) and Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams). Victor's father, Arnold (Gary Farmer) has just died and Victor is sent to return his ashes to the reservation. Thomas, whom Victor regards as something of a pest, pleads to be taken along. Their relation to each other and to Victor's dead father supplies the central dramatic impulse for the film.
Much of the film's power has to do with its honesty, both in the way the characters are depicted and also in its use of on-location filming at the Coeur D'Alene reservation which, like most reservations, is literally in the middle of nowhere. It is a mixture of rugged mountainous landscape with meager ramshackle housing and tacky general stores run by whites. Director Chris Eyre has found a way to capture both aspects of the reservation, so the audience understands both the lingering attraction of the reservation and what drives its inhabitants to desperation.
Think about the troubles that Victor and Thomas have traveling across the country, why is this? Would you have this same problems?
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Last updated on Tuesday, July 26, 2011.
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