In 2013, there was an in-crowd of movies by and about Native Americans — the films it seemed every festival wanted, and every festival honored. We did that list already, and it was a damn good list. Here’s a different list, though. These are harder-to-see films that aren’t headlining festivals — yet. They’re a little more offbeat, not as well publicized — you might even call them riskier. But the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Seek them out.
Rhymes for Young Ghouls
The gist: Dad’s a drug kingpin on a First Nations reserve — but then, so is the teenage daughter. The Indian Agent is scum.
Why you want to see it: Crime, corruption, revenge — it makes for a coming-of-age story more edgy than most. Throw in a dose of surrealism for good measure. Related: Ghoul Power!: Actress Devery Jacobs Discusses Her ‘Badass’ New Movie
The gist: A fictional drama involving a government plot set against the backdrop of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s.
Why you want to see it: Come on — a political thriler with AIM at its core? This is the most intriguing idea anyone’s had for a quote-unquote Indian movie in a good while. RELATED: Michael Spears on ‘The Activist,’ Political Thriller Set in AIM Heyday
Empire of Dirt
The gist: A 28-year-old single mom tries to save her 13-year-old daughter, but must reconcile with her estranged mother in the process.
Why you want to see it: It’s a contemporary story of a fractured Native family that is haunted by the legacy of Canadian boarding schools. RELATED: Jennifer Podemski, Actress and Producer, Talks About ‘Empire of Dirt’
Road to Paloma
The gist: Tough guys on motorcycles riding through Monument Valley, getting into trouble with guns and sexy women.
Why you want to see it: We can’t guarantee you do, actually, and it has barely showed anywhere. But it’s the feature-directing debut of Native Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa (most recently seen as a recurring character on Game of Thrones) and the trailer has us intrigued. So does the cast: Lisa Bonet (Momoa’s wife in real life), Native actors Wes Studi and Steve Reevis, and Maxim magazine veterans Sarah Shahi and Jill Wagner.
Navajo Star Wars
The gist: Star Wars. In Navajo.
Why you want to see it: Star Wars is, arguably, the most beloved movie of all time; dubbing it into the Navajo language is, arguably, the biggest thing to happen to a Native language in the medium of film. Since its premiere on the Navajo Nation over the 4th of July weekend, Navajo Star Wars mania has been real, and growing. Navajo speakers have been excited to see it; Natives who don’t speak Navajo have been excited to see it; even Star Wars fanatics with no connection to (or awareness of) Native languages have expressed their interest. Here’s a nearly six-minute bootlegged clip from YouTube (last time we did this, it was taken down, so enjoy it if it plays):
And here is a video from an ICTMN correspendent who was there for the opening on the Navajo Nation: