The film was written and directed by Sherman Alexie. Alexie is well
known as an author. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie "Smoke
Signals," which was based on his short stories. Alexie took a
film-making class, and this movie is the result of that effort. It was
made on a low budget, using no "big name" stars. It is not the kind of
movie you would see at the local movieplex, unless you live in Indian
Alexie said "I was often winging it." He also has a social agenda (I do
not use that phrase in a demeaning way) and he hired an all woman staff
as a part of that effort. Alexie wrote the screenplay quickly, and the
movie also includes some improvisation. Alexie said that the final film
was about 70% different than his screenplay. He had a deadline to meet
in order to get the movie shown at the Sundance Film Festival.
In one of the opening scene, the main character Seymour Polatkin (a
full-blooded, mixed tribe Indian played by Evan Adams) reads from his
book (All My Relations): "In the Great American Indian novel, when it is
finally written, all the white people wil be Indians and all the Indians
will be ghosts." Alexie adds two pop-up quotes to the screen which are
reviews of the book (not a real book, just the book the character is
supposed to have written). The New York Literary Quarterly Review gives
it good reviews. The quote attributed to Indianz.com (again, none of
this is about a real book) is "Full of Shit." This gives you an idea of
the nature of the rest of the movie.
Parts of the movie are set in Seattle, the rest is in the Spokane Indian
Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington. One of the background scenes
during the opening credits shows a man doing a shawl fancy dance. Not
being a real expert on powwow trends, I did think it was a bit unusual
to see as man doing a shawl dance. This anomaly was soon explained. The
website Internet Movie Database ( http://www.imdb.com ) describes the
plot thusly: "Seymour Polatkin is a successful, gay Indian poet from
Spokane who confronts his past when he returns to his childhood home on
the reservation to attend the funeral of a dear friend. Based upon
Sherman Alexie's book of poetry of the same name."
The time frame of the movie shifts quite often with liberal use of
flashbacks. It also involves the reading of several poems (most Alexie's
poems). I particularly enjoyed the poem about Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse
tries to donate blood. The nurse tells him that he cannot donate because
he has already given too much. "You'll have to wait several generations
to be eligible again."
The movie's subject matter covers life on the reservation (Washington
state style), conflicts between cultures (white vs Indian, Reservation
Indian vs Indians off the reservation), conflicts between life styles
(gay, heterosexual, Indian, white), alcoholism, and drug usage. The main
character, Seymour, faces quite a bit of criticism from the folks who
have stayed on the reservation. Seymour has become very famous for his
writings. The folks who have stayed (or returned) on his reservation are
often quite unkind in their comments about Seymour. Alexie says many of
the insults used in the movie were actually made about him in real life.
There is some interesting music in the movie. Alexie said that he almost
made the movie a musical.
While I found it interesting, this movie will not be enjoyed by everyone
because of the subject matter, especially that dealing with
homosexuality. It is another movie that unflinchingly looks at the poor
quality of life on a reservation. Unlike "Skins," this is very much a
I have been told that the movie will sometimes show up on some cable
channels. You can find this movie in some movie rental stores. Netflix
(the DVD by-mail rental company I told you about last month at:
Netflix ) has it.