Smoke Signals (1998)
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as Victor Joseph
as Thomas Builds-the-Fi...
as Suzy Song
as Arlene Joseph
as Randy Peone
as Young Victor Joseph
as Young Thomas Builds-...
as Grandma Builds-the-F...
as Lester Fallsapart
as Grandma Builds-the-F...
as Junior Polatkin
as Cathy The Gymnast
as Police Chief
as Jesuit No. 1
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Critic Reviews for Smoke Signals
It was shocking to realize that as late as 1998, this was still one of the few movies made by insiders, written, directed, and acted by Native Americans. The father-son narrative is conventional but it has humor and is well acted.
A brilliantly performed movie....Beach is a knockout
Native American themed story has great moments
Audience Reviews for Smoke Signals
Sherman Alexie is one of most important Native American fiction writers of the past century, and with this adaptation of his short story we see the real strife of these people, living in reservations. The film follows a young man (Beach) and an old friend (Adams) who take a road trip to put his father to rest. The film deals with prevalent issues in the Native American community including poverty, alcoholism, and racism from a heavily white population. Having Native American protagonists and a heavily NA cast is pretty unheard of in many films, even recently, and seeing this story made is really quite interesting. The story is a little rushed, as the journey takes a short amount of time. Most of what we see is Victor (Beach) trying to understand the legacy that his father has left for him. We see a transformation, but it goes by so fast that it's hard to savor exactly what has occurs before the story inevitably ends. We're also not sure what either Thomas or Victor will ultimately do now that this "adventure" has taken place. It just doesn't have the strength behind it that the original story invokes.
I recently finished reading Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" and felt compelled to revisit Smoke Signals for about the 8th or 9th time. I love this film a little more every time I view it, which is easy to do considering that the first time I saw it I just wasn't that impressed. I had felt that, in their quest to have the first "All Indian" movie, they had sacrificed a little quality and technical expertise. Maybe I still feel that's true but it's not something I notice much any more. Now I find myself engrossed in the rich characters, especially Arnold (Evan Adams). Arnold is a misfit and yet he might be the most 'indian' character in the entire ensemble. He's bright, he's introspective, and he's terribly, terribly honest. Even when he's embellishing stories he is still exposing truths.
Much like it's screenwriter, Smoke Signals is deceptively deep, intelligent and philosophical even if it's not perfectly crafted. .
All right...objectively, this is just not a very good movie. The two main characters are an unlikable prick and an unlikable nerd, respectively, and the themes are telegraphed and insultingly obvious. But Smoke Signals is important simply because of its lineage - and even though it's not that great, it's a difficult film to dislike. It's very earnest.
I guess if your only exposure to Native Americans in film is, like, Indian in the Cupboard, this movie would be well worth seeing. As a cinematic craft, not so much.
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