SMOKE SIGNALS MOVIE ANALYSIS ESSAYS
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Part of the reason Eyre and Alexie were able to get their film produced for $1.7 million dollars-or, perhaps produced at all-was because Eyre developed it through the Native American and Indigenous Program at Sundance Film Institute. Robert Redford, who has always been involved in Indian causes, opened this special workshop in the early 1990s to foster the talents of indigenous filmmakers. Redford recognized that the oral storytelling tradition of many Native American groups might translate well into narrative filmmaking, and their films would serve to counter the Hollywood or Anglo image of Indian history and culture. At Sundance, Eyre was free to make mistakes and try ideas that did not work out before embarking on the actual production of the film. Smoke Signals was then entered into the Sundance competition, where it won the Audience Award for Dramatic Films and the Filmmakers Trophy and was nominated for the Grand Prize. Redford himself hosted a special screening for the film, which was picked up for distribution by Harvey Weinstein through Miramax long before it even entered into competition.
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"Smoke Signals'' comes billed as the first feature written, directed, co-produced and acted by American Indians. It hardly seems necessary to even announce that: The film is so relaxed about its characters, so much at home in their world, that we sense it's an inside job. Most films about Native Americans have had points to make and scores to settle, like all those earnest 1950s white films about blacks. Blaxploitation broke the ice and liberated unrehearsed black voices, and now here are two young Indians who speak freshly, humorously and for themselves.