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Smoke Signals (1998)

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Young Indian man Thomas is a nerd in his reservation, wearing oversize glasses and telling everyone stories no-one wants to hear. His parents died in a fire in 1976, and Thomas was saved by... See full summary »

Director:

Chris Eyre

Writers:

Sherman Alexie (book), Sherman Alexie (screenplay)
11 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Adam Beach ... Victor Joseph
Evan Adams ... Thomas Builds-the-Fire
Irene Bedard ... Suzy Song
Gary Farmer ... Arnold Joseph
Tantoo Cardinal ... Arlene Joseph
Cody Lightning ... Young Victor Joseph
Simon Baker ... Young Thomas Builds-the-Fire
Monique Mojica Monique Mojica ... Grandma Builds-the-Fire
John Trudell ... Randy Peone
Chief Leonard George Chief Leonard George ... Lester Fallsapart (as Leonard George)
Michael Greyeyes ... Junior Polatkin
Darwin Haine ... Boo
Michelle St. John ... Velma
Elaine Miles ... Lucy
Cynthia Geary ... Cathy the Gymnast
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Storyline

Young Indian man Thomas is a nerd in his reservation, wearing oversize glasses and telling everyone stories no-one wants to hear. His parents died in a fire in 1976, and Thomas was saved by Arnold. Arnold soon left his family (and his tough son Victor), and Victor hasn't seen his father for 10 years. When Victor hears Arnold has died, Thomas offers him funding for the trip to get Arnold's remains, but only if Thomas can also go with him. Thomas and Victor hit the road. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A new film from the heart of Native America.

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some intense images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Canada | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

27 November 1998 (Iceland) See more »

Also Known As:

This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona See more »

Filming Locations:

Idaho, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$43,574, 28 June 1998, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$6,719,300, 18 October 1998
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The first movie to be written, directed, and co-produced by Native Americans. See more »

Goofs

When 12-year-old Victor beats Thomas up right after his dad leaves, he is wearing a white and red shirt under his button-up shirt. After he begins running, the undershirt changes to a completely red muscle-tee. See more »

Quotes

Victor Joseph: Thomas, don't you even know how to be a real Indian? How many times have you seen "Dances with Wolves" anyways? 100... 200 times? Oh jesus Thomas, you have seen it that many times?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Any similarity to actual persons, living, dead, or indigenous, is purely coincidental. See more »

Connections

References The French Chef (1962) See more »

Soundtracks

Father and Farther
(1995)
Written and Performed by Jim Boyd
Lyrics by Sherman Alexie
Courtesy of Thunderwolf Records
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A refreshing road film
26 December 1998 | by PureCinemaSee all my reviews

The eyes of cinema has always seen Indians only as the bad guys. The ones that shoot their arrows, wear feathers on their heads, and yell as they chase the heroes down. Finally, after 100 years of movies, we get a film that honestly portrays the Native American culture.  And man, it sure is refreshing.

The story opens on the Fourth of July, 1976 in a small Idaho Indian reservation. A small infant named Thomas Builds-the-Fire is thrown out of the window of a burning house and is caught by Arnold Joseph (Gary Farmer), a neighbor with a drinking problem, who is later kicked out of the house by his wife, leaving behind his son, Victor (Adam Beach). Arnold eventually settles down in Phoenix and his family never hears from him again.

20 years later, a phone call comes. It's from a woman in Phoenix, she says that Arnold is dead. Victor, who had developed a resentment towards his father over the years, decides that he should travel to Phoenix to pick up his ashes. Unfortunately, he has no money to get there... but Thomas does and offers to pay if he can come along with Victor. This is a tough decision for Victor since he never really liked Thomas, but he finally agrees and the two set off on their journey.

It's during their journey that we learn about the characters, Victor and Thomas' conversations reveal their attitudes towards Americans their views of Native Americans. In one scene, Victor accuses Thomas of learning everything about being an Indian from watching Dances With Wolves. In another funny sequence, the two begin talking about cowboys and end up singing a tune about John Wayne's teeth! Victor's resentment for his father is also revealed to us through flashbacks depicting the early years and the memories (some good, some bad) that the two shared.

They do eventually arrive in Phoenix and find the woman that called with the news of Arnold's death. Victor talks with her during the night and finds out how much his dad cared for him and how he never wanted to leave the reservation in the first place. The events that follow drastically alter Victor's perceptions of his father forever.

Smoke Signals is a great film and one that can teach you a lot about a culture so often misrepresented on the screen. There is a feeling of ease and casualness in the conversations between Victor and Thomas... slowly they reveal more and more of themselves to us, in a way that is so nonchalant that we understand their feelings it without even noticing it. Smoke Signals is well worth your time and offers a refreshing alternative to the big budget, special effects driven crap this summer.


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