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Chris Eyre's affable road-trip comedy won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and brought the emerging Indigenous New Wave into the North American mainstream.
Winner of the Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy at Sundance, Chris Eyre's affable road-trip comedy (adapted from his own short story by Sherman Alexie) was released to critical acclaim and considerable commercial success, helping the Indigenous New Wave take root in the North American mainstream. The brooding Victor (Adam Beach) and the talkative, eccentric Thomas (Evan Adams) have been neighbours and reluctant friends since childhood, when Victor's father Arnold (Gary Farmer) rescued Thomas from a house fire that killed the boy's parents — leading Thomas to regard him as a hero, though Victor resents him as an abusive drunk. When Arnold dies in far-away Phoenix, Arizona, Victor and Thomas leave the rez on a cross-country trek to collect his remains, which sparks the expected road-movie round of soul-searching, reconciliation and redemption. Directly, and entertainingly, tackling the stereotypes of Indigenous representation in the popular media, Smoke Signals also displays a remarkable, multi-generational (and largely Canadian) ensemble of First Nations actors, a core of talent that is still very much active in both film and theatre productions in Canada and the United States.