Smoke Signals: An Analysis
“Smoke Signals” is a film directed by Chris Eyre, based on the book by Sherman Alexie with the same name. The story follows the journey of two Native Americans, Victor and Thomas, as they travel from their reservation in Arizona to Seattle to retrieve the ashes of Victor’s father.
The film tackles social and economic issues faced by Native Americans, as well as the pain associated with parent-child relations. It also uses metaphor to explore what it means to be Indian in the modern world.
“Smoke Signals” was released in 1998 to critical acclaim. It won several awards, including the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award and the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. The film has also been praised for its accurate portrayal of Native American life and its positive representation of Indians.
2. The plot
Victor (Adam Beach) is a young man who lives on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho. His father, Arnold Joseph (Graham Greene), is an alcoholic who often neglects and mistreats him. One day, Arnold decides to leave the reservation and go to Arizona. He dies in a car accident while en route.
Victor’s best friend, Thomas Builds-the-Fire (Evan Adams), offers to take him to Arizona to retrieve his father’s ashes. Thomas is a eccentric man who loves to tell stories. He is also very knowledgeable about Coeur d’Alene culture and history.
The two men set out on their journey and quickly discover that they have very different views on life. Victor is angry and resentful towards his father, while Thomas is more forgiving and understanding. As they travel, the two men slowly begin to open up to each other and form a friendship.
Along the way, they encounter many challenges, including a forest fire, a group of racist bikers, and a flooded river. They also meet a number of interesting characters, such as Suzy Songbird (Irene Bedard), a Native American woman who has left the reservation to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer.
AfterSuzy helps them cross the river, she tells them that she is going back home to her family. This inspires Victor to reconcile with his own father and come to terms with his death.
3. Themes and motifs in the film
The film explores a number of themes, including alcoholism,father-son relationships, loss, grief, identity, culture, history, and self-determination.
It also uses various motifs to reinforce these themes, such as fire (which represent rebirth and regeneration), water (which symbolizes cleansing and purification), and smoke signals (which are used as metaphors for communication and connection).
4. The characters
Victor Joseph: Victor is the protagonist of the film. He is a young man who has been deeply scarred by his father’s abuse. He is angry and resentful towards Arnold for abandoning him and his mother. However, he eventually comes to terms with his father’s death and learns to forgive him.
Thomas Builds-the-Fire: Thomas is Victor’s best friend and travelling companion. He is an eccentric man who loves to tell stories. He is also very knowledgeable about Coeur d’Alene culture and history. Thomas helps Victor to understand his father and come to terms with his death.
Suzy Songbird: Suzy is a Native American woman who has left the reservation to pursue her dreams of becoming a singer. She meets Victor and Thomas when they are trying to cross a river. She helps them to cross the river and then tells them that she is going back home to her family. Her decision inspires Victor to reconcile with his father.
Arnold Joseph: Arnold is Victor’s father. He is an alcoholic who often neglects and mistreats his son. He leaves the reservation to go to Arizona, but dies in a car accident while en route.
5. The setting
The film is set in the present day on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation in Idaho and in Arizona. The setting is significant because it allows the viewer to see how Native Americans are living in the present day.
6. The film’s impact and legacy
“Smoke Signals” has had a positive impact on the way Native Americans are represented in popular culture. The film has been praised for its accurate portrayal of Native American life and its positive representation of Indians. It has also been credited with helping to break down stereotypes about Native Americans.
The film has had a lasting impact on the way Native Americans are viewed in the film industry. It has opened up opportunities for Native American actors, directors, and writers.
“Smoke Signals” is considered to be one of the most important films about Native Americans. It is a powerful story about loss, grief, and reconciliation. The film is an important example of how Native American culture can be accurately represented in mainstream media.