Home       Friday Night Movies      Contents      Photos      Links      Email   
Smoke Signals DVD Cover The Thanksgiving Presentation
at Friday Night Movies:

Smoke Signals

Friday the 16th of November

It's a good day to be indigenous.
--DJ Randy Leone

USA: 1998 -- Directed by Cheyenne-Arapaho Chris Eyre

Written by Sherman Alexi

Starring Adam Beach, Evan Adams, and Irene Bedard.

"A new film from the heart of Native America." - original tagline

Based on a couple of short stories (from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven) by Sherman Alexi, Smoke Signals is a lean and assured feature that speaks well of its lengthy, rich evolution, including a development stint at Sundance. The first feature made by a Native American crew and creative team, the film concerns two young Idaho men with radically different memories of one Arnold Joseph (Gary Farmer), a former resident of the reservation who split years before and has just died in Phoenix. Arnold's strapping, popular son, Victor (Adam Beach), remembers him best as an alcoholic, occasionally abusive father who drove off one day and never came back. By contrast, Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams), whom Arnold had saved from certain death years earlier, has chosen to exaggerate the man's life and deeds in a mythmaking fashion that drives Victor crazy. Circumstances bring the two together, however, in a bus ride to retrieve Arnold's ashes. There, in Phoenix, a confrontation with the reality of the dead man's fullest legacy has a profound effect on both characters.

Alexie, who wrote the script and was personally involved in all aspects of the production, and first-time director Chris Eyre are so polished in their approach that you can barely feel the cinematic engine at work here. This is the kind of movie in which the characters seem to be driving everything forward, a captivating and pleasant experience that gets a little too tidy at the end (can we call a moratorium on scenes of human ashes lovingly disposed to the winds?), but which is undeniably moving.

Hope to see you there. I'll save you an aisle seat and some fry bread!

Adam Beach and Evan Adams as Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire Irene Bedard as Suzy Song


Won Sundance Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy, Nominated for Grand Jury Prize

Won Independent Sprit Award for Best Debut Performance - Evan Adams

More awards

Memorable Quotes

Randy Peone: Good morning, this is Randy Peone on KREZ Radio,the voice of the Coeur d'Alene Indian reservation. And Coeur d'Alene people, our reservation is beautiful this morning. It's a good day to be indigenous.

Victor Joseph: You gotta look mean or people won't respect you. White people will run all over you if you don't look mean. You gotta look like a warrior. You gotta look like you just came back from killing a buffalo.
Thomas Builds-the-Fire: But our tribe never hunted buffalo. We were fisherman.
Victor Joseph: What? You wanna look like you just came back from catching a fish? This ain't "Dances with Salmon," you know.

Holly: You guys are heroes, you know? It's like you're the Lone Ranger and Tonto.
Thomas Builds-the-Fire: No, it's more like we're Tonto and Tonto.

Thomas Builds-the-Fire: Hey Victor! I'm sorry 'bout your dad.
Victor Joseph: How'd you hear about it?
Thomas Builds-the-Fire: I heard it on the wind. I heard it from the birds. I felt it in the sunlight. And your mom was just in here cryin'.

Thomas Builds-the-Fire: If we forgive our fathers, what is left?

More quotes


The first feautre film to be written, directed, and produced by Native Americans.

Irene Bedard, who plays Suzy Song, was the voice of and physical inspiration for Disney's Pocahontas

Chief Leonard George, who plays Lester Fallsapart, is chief of Burrard Indian Tribe of Vancouver, B.C. His father, Chief Dan George, played opposite Dustin Hoffman in "Little Big Man" and Clint Eastwood in "The Outlaw Josey Wales."

John Trudell, who plays DJ Randy Peone, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, to a Santee Sioux father and Mexican Indian mother. After a stint in the Navy (and Vietnam) from 1963 to 1969, he became involved with the American Indian Movement, becoming National Chairman in 1973. He held that position until 1979; it was then that his wife Tina, mother-in-law, and three children ages one, three, & five, were burned to death in a "fire of suspicious origin" on their Nevada reservation which was nonetheless never investigated. Beginning in the early 1980's, Trudell began to channel his anger and emotion through poetry, music, and acting.

Perrey Reeves, who plays Holly was David Duchovny's girlfriend in the mid 90's.

More trivia


Continuity: The old pickup truck that leaves the Joseph house on the reservation has 10-lug rims, and when it is returned by Victor and Thomas, it has 5-lug rims on all 4 wheels. Obviously it's a different truck.

Factual errors: There is no way that one bus driver could have driven the same bus continuously from Idaho to Arizona. Federal law would prohibit it.

More goofs

Irene Bedard and Adam Beach Evan Adams and Adam Beach