Written For Class – Smoke Signals Film Discussion

Smoke Signals is a movie that follows two young men, Victor and Thomas, as they travel to recover the ashes of the man who shaped their lives. This movie takes the viewer on a road full of doubt, trauma, revelation and growth. Smoke Signals is not told from a common point of view. The main cast of the film is full of Native American actors and address the universal issues of experiencing lost and fearing change through that specific lens. Past films that have included Native American characters have not given those characters the same depth of inherent goodness that would have been given to them had they been a character of European descent. This is because of the violent history between White Americans and Native Americans and the racist stereotypes that have been passed down through the generations of both people.

Smoke Signals addresses these stereotypes in a very creative way. The film chose to  acknowledge many of the assumptions that are made about Native Americans by putting them in Native mouths as jokes. This subtle technique causes the viewer to question the veracity of that stereotype, thus subverting any power that stereotype has over the viewer and the characters. The film also directly references other Hollywood Native characters by using them as insults about Thomas. This use of those film archetypes also subvert the assumptions by showing that Thomas is more than a two-dimensional character. Sadly, because of the fact that Native American history is mostly told by Europeans, the filmmakers are forced to break down these walls with the viewer before telling a powerful story that transcends race.

You can really tell that the makers of the film wanted to show the fact that Native American go through the same human struggles that everyone does. Their story may be often told inaccurately and their culture repeatedly insulted, but this film makes a point to show that Natice Americans can be heroes and villains of stories. They have flaws and depth like everyone else. 

Happy Thanksgiving.


P.S. Written For Class will be the way that I title stuff that I am proud of that I originally wrote for a class. Also this discussion was written earlier today.

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