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What Smoke Signals Means 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago, director Chris Eyre directed and co-produced Smoke Signals, a coming of age story featuring Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Irene Bedard, Gary Farmer, and American Indian Movement (AIM) activist John Trudell. Although it might now make us uncomfortable that the screenplay and the book were written by Sherman Alexie, who has recently been accused of sexual misconduct, the movie was groundbreaking in that it was the first movie to be written, directed, co-produced, and acted by Native Americans.

In 2005, Native American Studies scholar Joanna Hearne explored the ways in which indigenous filmmakers used film production as a site for “cultural revival.” She introduces a number of scenes from Smoke Signals to illustrate “specific moments when the filmmakers strategically intervene in media representations and appropriate media tools for the purposes of visual sovereignty.”


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