Slam Dunk and Strike Out
- Indian Comics Irregular #143
I don't get a chance to report on every Native movie when it hits the theaters. Here are a couple I haven't mentioned ... until now.
From late last year comes Chris Eyre's "Edge of America." Some
comments from the Navajo Times (11/10/05):
Native American director Chris Eyre delivers an impressive layup
shot with his new film "Edge of America," a Showtime original
picture airing later this month on cable TV.
The film opens as African American English teacher Kenny Williams,
played by James McDaniel, travels to his new teaching job at Three
Nations High School, located on a fictional Indian reservation in
The usual conflicts and resolutions ensue:
Once confronted by his team, Williams is forced to look deeper into
himself and the traditional Native American cultures surrounding
Eyre, whose earlier films "Smoke Signals" and "Skins" have made him
a much-watched director, has produced another winner with "Edge of
America." This is a dramatic and triumphant film, one that will
leave many moviegoers reaching for the Kleenex.
The NY Times (11/21/05) wasn't as impressed. It called "Edge of
a treacly, unexamined look at race and will, at determination lost
and regained; a film that might have come with the tag line
"'Hoosiers'--but on a reservation."
If that wasn't bad enough, it added:
The subject of modern Native American life is largely untapped, and
any number of interesting films might have been made about it,
especially now that casinos have brought new revenue and competing
ideologies to some reservations. It is a shame that the producers
instead chose to make a film concluding with the wisdom, "The
basketball is round, like Mother Earth."
Comparing a movie to the great "Hoosiers" isn't a knock in my book.
The Hollywood Reporter (11/21/05) seemed to agree:
Bottom line: An edgy, astute look at race relations wrapped in a
taut, entertaining drama.
From early this year comes "Stryker." The NY Times (1/4/06) described it as "a grim little gang melodrama" and said it could've been set in any major US city. Instead, the film, directed by Noam Gonick, explores the mean streets of Winnipeg.
Stryker (Kyle Henry) is a 14-year-old aboriginal who flees his reservation after burning down a church. In town he witnesses a gang fight between the Indian Posse and the Asian Bomb Squad. He then tours the city's "lower depths" and experiences its "brutality and squalor."
As the review concluded:
Mr. Gonick's point, underscored by the defiant, politically tinged
rap on the soundtrack, is that much of Canada's indigenous youth
has been forced into crime by a racist and unfeeling system, and
that gangs represent a desperate form of political resistance.
This idea might have been more persuasive, or at least more
provocative, if "Stryker" had been executed with more force and
The mostly unprofessional cast does a lot of shouting and swearing,
and Mr. Henry's face has a haunting impassivity, but the film does
not offer much in the way of social insight or credible emotion.
Its dogged sincerity is evident, but not enough to make it more
than an amateurish curiosity.
For more on Native-themed movies, go to http://www.bluecorncomics.com/namovies.htm .
Blue Corn Comics