7.2/10
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134 user 42 critic

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)
12 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

In a flashback Victor's father asks him who his favorite Indian is and Victor replies "Nobody." Gary Farmer who plays Victor's father stared as an Indian named Nobody in the movie Dead Man (1995). 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

Thomas Builds-the-Fire: Your father saved my life
Victor Joseph: Thomas you don't even know my father. Did you know that my father was the one that set your parent's house on fire? Did you know that my father beat my mother? Did you know that my father beat me too?
Thomas Builds-the-Fire: All I know is that when your father left your mother lost you too.
Victor Joseph: Thomas I wish that fire had killed you.
Thomas Builds-the-Fire: Victor LOOK OUT!
See more »

Crazy Credits

Support HONOR/EARTH campaign. Support American Indian College Fund. Contributions from the profits of this film will be made to each of these organizations. See more »

Connections

Featured in Brows Held High: Dead Man (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

Enjoyable, not very coherent, but worth watching more than once
7 July 2000 | by Foopy-2See all my reviews

The only problem I had with this film was that it seemed like it was trying to convey several different messages but it never seemed to glue them all together. When I started watching this film, and from what I had read from the back of the movie box, it seemed like it was going to mostly be a film about the unlikely friendship between two people, about how two very different individuals can share many things in common. As I continued watching the film, more themes creeped in, such as the nature of oral tradition and exaggeration/lying within it, what it means to be a Native American in the middle of the nation that oppressed your people, and the nature of fatherhood and forgiveness.

The film ends up addressing or at least giving us something interesting to think about for all of these issues, but it just seemed like too many themes to address in 90 minutes. It seems as though the last issue I mentioned (fatherhood/forgiveness) ends up being the most prevalent one, but it seemed like it was touched on so mildly that I didn't quite understand its resolution beyond a very basic, generic level.

By far the most valuable thing about the film, for me, was its depiction and perspective of modern Native American life and culture. It adds a great deal of insight, humor, and uniqueness to the film, particularly considering the fact that this was the first major film entirely written, directed, co-produced and starring Native Americans. In fact, I really think the film would've been a lot more interesting if it were just about the two characters going out into America to perform some inconsequential errand, and building a friendship along the way, learning from one another's perspectives on Native American life and culture. As it is, the whole fatherhood element really adds a lot of extra baggage to the film that didn't seem to fit well into its 90 minutes of storytelling.

Much of my dissatisfaction for the film, however, could be attributed to the fact that I had very different expectations for the film when I started watching it. Because the movie deals with so many themes, I think it's worth at least a second viewing so that one can take it all in. Regardless of its perceived flaws, although it's not an entirely coherent film to me, it still offered a very insightful perspective to Native American life and culture, and it was very enjoyable to watch.


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