Grabbing Audience Favourite at the Sundance Film Festival, Smoke Signals was written, directed and acted by Indigenous creators. Director Chris Eyre captures the experience of living in the late 90s, through Thomas’ (Evan Adams) love of storytelling.
Adam Beach stars as Victor Joseph, a young man who has been estranged from his father for more than a decade. He lives on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho – ostensibly the middle of nowhere.
But life for Victor Joseph is anything but empty. A handsome, strapping guy, he is sullen, silent and angry over his dad’s desertion of the family. The father, Arnold (Gary Farmer, Dead Man), was a good-hearted but moody drunk. When his wife, Arlene (Tantoo Cardinal), couldn’t take the booze and the beatings anymore, Arnold climbed into his pickup truck and drove away forever.
Years before Arnold’s departure, a fire swept through the house of Victor’s friend Thomas when an all-night party left most of the reservation – including Arnold – falling-down drunk. Arnold saved young Thomas, but the boy’s parents died, and since then Thomas has become the reservation outcast of sorts, grinning, bespectacled, socially inept, but with a mystical gift for telling wildly improbable stories, some of them true, to anyone who will listen.
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A delightfully lighthearted look at the Indigenous psyche with expected moments of tugging sadness. Unpretentious, funny and soulful, Eyre created a standout first feature.
Smoke Signals was a seminal film for the Victoria Film Festival. It opened our mind to the community need and gave us a direction in which to strive. It is fitting that we now celebrate in our 25th year this wonderful film. Join us as we bring you another opportunity to see this mind-opening tale on the big screen. The film screens at 6:30 PM followed by a conversation with some of Smoke Signals’ principals. Richard Crouse of CTV’s Pop Life hosts.
CHRIS EYRE, the nation’s most celebrated Native American film director, was born in Oregon. A member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, he gained national attention in 1998 with the movie Smoke Signals, winning the Sundance Film Festival Filmmakers Trophy and the Audience Award. The Film also took Best Film honours at the American Indian Film Festival. He is a director and producer, also known for Edge of America (2003) and Skins (2002), and was honoured with the HatcH Native Spirit Award for his achievements in filmmaking. Chris Eyre was appointed as chairman of the film department at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design as of January 2012.
EVAN ADAMS is from Tla’amin Nation, near the town of Powell River, B.C. He has starred in the Emmy-winning TV-movie Lost in the Barrens and its nominated sequel Curse of the Viking Grave, and numerous episodics like The Beachcombers and Black Stallion. Evan stars as Thomas Builds-The-Fire in Smoke Signals, written by Sherman Alexie. He won Best Actor awards from the American Indian Film Festival, and from First Americans in the Arts, and a 1999 Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance. He continues to work on intermittent, high-profile projects, and is also a medical doctor in Vancouver, Canada.
TANTOO CARDINAL is arguably the most widely recognized Indigenous actress of her generation. Tantoo has appeared in numerous plays, television programs, and films, including Legends of the Fall, Dances With Wolves, Black Robe, Loyalties, Luna, Spirit of the Whale, Unnatural & Accidental, Marie-Anne, Sioux City, Silent Tongue, Mothers and Daughters and Smoke Signals. Recent work includes the films Eden, Maina, Angelique’s Isle and Falls Around Her (the latter two both playing at VFF 2019).
For her filmmaking contributions to the First Nations artistic community, Cardinal won the Eagle Spirit Award. She has also been honoured with the Macleans’ magazine Honour Roll as Actress of the Year; the Outstanding Achievement Award from Toronto Women in Film and Television; an International Women in Film Award for her lasting contribution to the arts, and induction to the CBC/Playback Hall of Fame. Cardinal is a Member of the Order of Canada, recognizing her contributions to the growth and development of Indigenous performing arts in Canada.
RICHARD CROUSE is the host of the CTV talk show Pop Life, and the regular lm critic for the 24 hour news source CTV’s News Channel and CP24. He is also the author of nine books on pop culture history including Who Wrote the Book of Love, the best-selling The 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, and its sequel. Crouse was the host of Reel to Real, Canada’s longest running television show about movies, from 1998 to 2008 and is a frequent guest on many national Canadian radio and television shows.