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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Real characters from a community you probably don't know

7/10
Author: dgaither from Mountain View, CA
7 March 2005

There's a joke or two about "Indian time" in this movie, but in reality, the whole movie moves in "Indian time". Conversations are at the opposite end of the spectrum from Altman's overlapping dialog. Here a character speaks and the other characters pause for a couple of seconds thinking about what's been said before making the next comment. It's all very unhurried and laconic. For example, at one point we here on the radio, "So that's your forecast . . . It's cold today . . It'll be cold tomorrow . . . It'll probably get colder after that. But this here's February, so what'd you expect?" The music is terrific, but I don't think any actual Hank Williams' songs are used. Everyone talks about playing Hank Williams, but somehow it never seems to happen on camera. All of the characters in this film are so real, that by the end you feel like you've spent a week getting to know your cousin's neighbors in a town you've never visited before. You should also be aware that the quest to visit Hank Williams' grave is not really the centerpiece of the movie. The movie mostly takes place in the Cree Nation community it starts in. The quest is mostly there to give the locals something to talk about. I was deeply moved, to the point of tears, by this movie.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Expected fun, got great

9/10
Author: rexcine from San Jose CA
5 April 2005

This is mostly a movie about people and their most sincere levels of connection. Don't be confused by the title. Hank Williams is only the nail to hang this story from. In fact, although almost all of it centers on a town of Cree Indians in Alberta, it is a universal story of people going through their lives, living with family, and working to make or deal with connections. Funny at the start, interesting in the middle, moving in the last. A well filmed, well crafted story, that leads you along a simple path that will eventually fill your heart with more than you expected.

I think if there were any flaws, they were budget related. For instance, there was no actual Hank Williams music in the film, but I'm sure that was only due to the cost and complexity of arranging to use his music. At this lower-budget level, it works anyway. The script is great, actors feel real, and the filming looks good.

I expected a small light-hearted movie. It is that, in part. It is also a great story that slowly pulls you in, gets you involved, and then draws you to an experience that should resonate deeply if you have a heart. It seems simple but weaves that simplicity into something more. In the end I was choking back emotions. I walked out feeling myself taken to a place that makes me glad I keep looking for these film experiences -- sometimes because someone told me, sometimes unexpected.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Hank Williams First Nation is a great film.

10/10
Author: thedeanes from Canada
6 April 2005

No smoking No swearing No belittling sarcasm No drinking No angry temper-tantrums No hurtful put-downs No forcing change No judgmental discrimination No grad dress No Hank Williams No subtitles for the Man Speaking Cree

This movie flows like water over rocks in clear air. It has strength and resilience because of events which occur before the film begins, during the film, and after the film closes. It carries us along for a time with the lives of these people, and provides us with a hopeful promise of a new tomorrow at the same time recognizing the enormous impact of a far-reaching past. The characters maintain their integrity throughout. The Music is also Great!

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Great movie, great music, nice moose !

Author: ada-dollevoet from Canada
6 April 2005

A real feel good movie with a deep story going on around it. A lot of symbolism and underlying messages it seemed. I didn't get all of them at first and I'm sure I missed a lot - need to see it again. for instance the two moose in the first shot and then the lone moose at the end. All the 'Indian politics' going on but it was funny enough that it was not controversial or depressing or offensive. I liked the cinematography, the music and the humor. I expected a choppy perhaps awkward movie given the budget but I was shocked at what a small budget and a good script can produce. The characters were believable and the story was heart warming and made ya think.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A Film of Wall To Wall Parallels.

6/10
Author: Larry Chartrand (info@lakelandvideo.ca) from Canada
26 February 2005

At A Theatre Near You! By Larry Chartrand of Lakeland Video Productions

Hank Williams First Nation Comedy Drama, rated PG. 92 minutes in length. A Canadian Film produced in Alberta. Directed by Aaron James Sorensen, starring Stacy Da Silva as Sarah Fox, a grade 12 valedictorian, and Sarah's grandfather, Adelard Fox, played by Gordon Tootoosis.

This movie goes against the Hollywood style and is totally Canadian. Without giving away the story, a boy and his uncle leave their northern Alberta reserve bound for Nashville in search of the truth. Is Hank Williams Senior really dead?

We are drawn into a world of parallels, that is more the focus of this film, than its' title. The different scenes that play out are bundled together with the common theme of young and old, as seen from a native point of view. Hank senior & Hank III, a cow moose with her calf, Adelard raising his granddaughter Sarah, dilapidated vehicles next to shiny new trucks, Sarah yearning for her paternal mother, to name only a few parallels. I was lost at one point in the movie, when about 5 minutes played out in Cree language, with no translation. There was obvious humor, because the Cree audience was laughing, but I had no clue. I later realized, what a brilliant way to make a statement.

The story line itself is solid and develops into a good ending, yet leaves the viewer with a lot of questions. Is Hank senior dead? What happens to the cow moose? Where are the traditions? These truths don't affect every ones lives on the surface, but they are important to individuals. As I said, the real story lies hidden in the parallels. The conflict is between old and new, the modern versus traditional.

This film is fun to watch, will likely get you thinking, and now that you know what to watch for, you can count up how many parallels there are. 3 ½ Stars out of 5.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

See this film!

9/10
Author: faeryhound from Canada
2 August 2005

Forget Tom Cruise and his invading aliens - my pick for THE movie to see this summer is "Hank Williams - First Nation".

Calgarian Aaron James Sorenson wrote and directed the film, all the music was done by local artists and the cast is made up of local actors, including Gordon Tootosis - whom many of you will recognize as "Albert" from North of 60 and also having appeared with Brad Pitt and Sir Anthony Hopkins in Legends of the Fall. Sammy Simon does a phenomenal job as the Radio Announcer, providing a great deal of HONEST laughter.

When I say "Honest" laughter, what I mean is that, unlike many of the "slick, high budget, Hollywood blockbusters" - this film doesn't rely on laughs generated by potty jokes, self-depreciation and at the expense of others.

Hank Williams, First Nation is a story based on characters that Mr Sorenson grew to know. The story itself is about a family, a community, a dream. Uncle Martin, a lifelong Hank Williams fan, has decided that perhaps Hank isn't dead after all. He decides to travel to Nashville to see Hank's grave for his own eyes. His younger brother sends his grandson Jacob with Uncle Martin not only to keep the oldest Fox family member company, but to teach his grandson a little about the world. The two become celebrities in the U.S., being interviewed by small town newspapers and having their picture taken to be posted at diners along the way.

Meanwhile, at home, Jacob's sister, Sara is facing her pending graduation and all the emotional ups and downs of the big event that we all faced. Her boyfriend is a big schmuck, her brother's best friend has a huge crush on her and she is a sure bet for valedictorian. On top of it all, her absentee mother, whom Jacob has only seen once when he was a toddler, may be coming for a visit.

The other characters have issues of their own to deal with and they do so as we all do. Mr Sorenson has created some of the most REAL characters I've encountered in film since Fargo and Beautiful Girls. They don't win the lotto, they don't drive insanely expensive cars, they aren't unbelievably beautiful and spend nights having sex we can only envy. They don't have some sort of "lightbulb" moment and solve every problem they've ever had. They laugh. They cry. They get up every day and head off to work when they'd rather stay in bed. They have car starters that don't work. They look forward to the weekly Radio Bingo games. They have crappy winter weather. What you see is what you get. In short, I LOVED these characters. I cared about them. I wanted to see what would happen to them. I STILL wonder how things will work out for them.

As a writer, Mr Sorenson has accomplished what many writers strive for. He created characters with heart and soul and depth. Some of the cinematography will knock your socks off. The film captures the beauty of the Canadian landscape which is often overlooked in Canadian cinema.

I laughed. I laughed a LOT. Not just a little smile here and there or a chuckle kept to myself. I experienced honest, out loud, unabashed laughter the likes of which I've not experienced in a film in some time. My advice, grab a friend and go see this film. You won't regret it.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Support this Canadian (Albertan) gem

9/10
Author: aaaaboos from Canada
8 May 2005

I had a great time watching this movie. I do wish that I spoke Cree, or that I would have brought a Cree speaker with me. There is a scene where it would have been handy. You can infer what the conversation is about, but the woman beside me was killing herself laughing and I only had a little chuckle at the parts of the conversation that were in English. The acting in this film is superior for the most part. However, there was one role that I would re-cast if it was up to me -- the teacher. Her acting was poor and actually quite distracting, but I am sure that it was well intended. Her role in general was a little confusing. There seemed to be some inconsistencies around her character. That said, Sorensen did an excellent job capturing the spirit of the north, and Da Silva (especially) brought his words to life. I laughed and almost cried. Support this Canadian gem; you will not be disappointed.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

These people will be okay.

7/10
Author: ChuckCram from Canada
15 April 2005

It took me a day or so of reflection to reach that conclusion. You see, Sarah aches, envies and dreams, but when she is knocked down, she picks up what self-esteem she can gather and gets up again. She desperately wants to be loved by a boyfriend and a parent. Adelard is thoughtful, accepting and wise, but most of all loving--not just of people, though certainly that, but of the vital things of his life: peace, understanding, personal growth, and the natural progress of life's events.

The Cree dialogue scene is rich with communication. The primary conversant, a politician wannabe, displays through his gestures and intonation that he is sincere, and believes in himself and his integrity. That, along with the sporadic inclusion of English nouns and adjectives (Cranglais?), leaves little uncomprehending—and keeps the audience rapt and grinning throughout. I was impressed.

If a story has to go somewhere—if you need to be taken from point A to point B—then you won't appreciate this one. This is not an action film, it's a "setting" film, and parallel to the concept of Oral Tradition, it's all about the dialogue. That's what gives this film a depth well beyond "A Day In The Life of…" or "A Cultural Snapshot". The generous use of silence, without becoming Pinter-esquire, speaks volumes.

If you can't get to a screening of this film, find it on video—it'll be good there too.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

An amusing yet respectful gaze at the Cree Nation in northern Alberta

9/10
Author: (roland@atkinsononfilm.com) from Portland, Oregon, United States
31 October 2005

I cannot understand the low consensus ratings so far on the IMDb (4.4/10 as of today) for this lovely film, which was my personal favorite among the 15 features I saw at the recent Idaho International Film Festival in Boise. The opening night feature, this relaxed, soulful narrative film is set on tribal lands of the Woodland Cree Indians in northern Alberta, where Mr. Sorenson, the director, taught school for several years.

An aging member of the tribe longs to visit the gravesite of his favorite country musician, Hank Williams, Sr., in Nashville. His younger brother Adelard, a tribal leader, played by Gordon Tootoosis (a prominent Native Canadian actor from the Cree/Stoney First Nations in Saskatchewan), arranges for his teen grandson to accompany the old man and off they go by bus. We tune in now and then to the progress made on this junket, but most of the film is about small dramas among the folks back home. Affectionately observed by first time filmmaker Sorenson, the people and their daily lives are followed with respect and gentle humor.

All but three of the actors are first timers, amateurs. The best of these by far is Bernard Starlight, cast in the role of Huey, a young teddy bear of a fellow whose offbeat charm graces all of his contacts with others. Gordon Tootoosis is a marvelous actor whose subtle facial gestures cover a broad range of self-contained emotions. Mr. Sorenson, who was present at this screening, says that he built each of his characters upon people he got to know while teaching among the Crees.

An important goal of his film, he said, was to dispel common negative stereotypes about Native Canadians (e.g., that they are slackers and alcoholics or addicts). As Sorenson perceives them, they are typically people of integrity and faith, with a splendid sense of humor and a passion for country music; their hero, almost to a man, is Hank Williams, Sr. (who, by the way, is buried in Montgomery, Alabama, near his birthplace, not Nashville). Sorenson does touch on the issue of drug abuse, but only in an oblique manner, one that highlights a local family's resolve to take care of its own troubled relative.

Eastern Canadian film moguls turned their backs on this movie for being "too small and too regional," Sorenson told us. So he distributed the film himself in Alberta and did $140K worth of box office gross in that province alone, over half the cost of his film. Now people are interested.

There are a number of loose ends left dangling in this story: the fate of Adelard's grandson and granddaughter, the outcome of a local election, Huey's future. Fortunately, a Canadian TV producer has asked Mr. Sorenson to create several 30 minute films to follow some of these stories further, to be screened following the present feature length movie.

I asked Bruce Fletcher, the IIFF Director, how he discovered this splendid film. "Simple," Bruce said. "First of all, I'm from Alberta. My friends told me about this film. Second, I married a Cree Indian." Any more questions? Visit the film's website: www.hwfn.com. My rating: 9/10 (A-). (Film seen on 09/29/05). If you'd like to read more of my reviews, send me a message for directions to my websites.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Seen it three times - can see it at least three more!

10/10
Author: lsnyder-1 from Canada
11 May 2005

Been to the movies lately? Well I have one to get you back in that theatre seat, munching popcorn, and having a great time. I attended Hank Williams First Nation, the little movie that is causing a big stir. The movie was exceptionally well done with clever humour, family values, and a real down-to-earth plot to which we Albertans (and all North Americans) can relate.

The majority of the audience was responding the same way I did, as the laughter rang throughout the building many times. It has been a long time since I sat in a theatre and so thoroughly enjoyed the audience's response.

Besides experiencing many good natured belly laughs, the film exposed to poignant moments of reality, with a number of realistic sub-plots being respectfully addressed. Although these story lines are a bitter reality in the world today, Aaron Sorensen's movie presents them with dignity and exposes the vulnerability of the characters, all the while letting us examine how we would respond if placed in similar situations. It was very soul searching.

This movie is one of Canada's best family films this year (no sex, no violence, and only one "small" swear word), and there is no finer place to view it than on the big screen at a theatre near you!

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