Smoke Signals (Chris Eyre, 1998)
”[…] Coming out at the tail-end of a certain resurgence of American independent cinema, Smoke Signals is, like many films of the period, an admirably “well-read” piece of filmmaking, reflexive of tropes and imagery having come before it. Particularly engaging because of the manner it proudly wears its varied cinematic influences on its sleeve like familiar codes for the audience to recognize and embrace, Chris Eyre crafts a Native cinematic vision that is almost as non-Native in form as it is with its content. Indeed, because it is conventionally and economically shot, the film follows the structure and model of most mainstream (Hollywood, or otherwise) films. While one can only speculate on Eyre’s influences and formative film viewing experiences, Smoke Signals does manageto recall a few other key works of non-Native American cinema. Recalling per example fellow satirist Spike Lee (circa 1989’s Do the Right Thing), Eyre’s use of humor and his handling of ethnic relations in not without a considerable amount of self-parodying, exaggeration and an inch of heavy-handedness. More subtly perhaps, Eyre also overtly appropriates (and embodies) the (arguably White American) road movie genre as popularized by such late-60s films as Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Easy Rider (1969), while inserting distinct Western imagery (and related jokes) in multiple scenes. At first glance, there might be nothing specifically indigenous to Eyre’s filmmaking, yet if slightly disappointing in form, Chris Eyre’s use of a normative style to communicate a resolutely Native perspective is an admirable exercise in reappropriation; the interconnected genres of the road movie and the Western (both taking place in and glorifying the open road, so to speak) as given back to the Native filmmaker. […]”
Turning school assignments into blog material, pardon me.