Smoke Signals -- about modern-day American Indians hit the screen. DRUNKTOWN'S FINEST, the new film from first-time/full-length filmmaker Sydney Freeland, is not in that league -- it doesn't possess the poetry: visual from director Chris Eyre, verbal from screen-writer Sherman Alexie -- but it is still a movie worth seeing. More "modern," due to its inclusion of a transgendered character, as well as an adopted Indian raised by "whites," and of course the usual alcohol-problemed guy, the movie touches some of the new "bases" while remaining a relatively honest look a society ever in transition and trying to hold on to what's best about its past.
As a screenwriter, Freeland's plot and dialog tend toward the plain and believable, despite maybe a coincidence or two too many; as director, she has surrounded herself with a professional crew, while keeping things moving along at a good clip and drawing decent performances from her mostly adept cast.
Jeremiah Bitsui, above), transgendered Felixia (newcomer Carmen Moore, below),
MorningStar Angeline, below). All three characters are connected in ways that will not become apparent for some time. Fortunately, their connection does not insist on some clever plot surprise; it's just part of typical small-scale reservation life.
Magdelena Begay, below)-- reminded me of the ending in the current and quite exceptional Oscar nominee, Timbuktu. Except that here, the running is something positive and wonderful. It lifts our spirits -- as does, despite its flaws and pretty much in its entirety, Drunktown's Finest.
Indion Entertainment the movie, running 92 minutes, opens this Friday in New York City at the Quad Cinema. Elsewhere? No idea, but as the film is a product of Sundance, with Robert Redford credited as an executive producer, one would imagine the film might open at one of the several Sundance Cinemas.