The 2000s saw a welcome shift in Hollywood towards greater diversity and inclusion, with Native American actors and producers making their mark in the film industry.
These five movies and short films from the 2000s showcase the talent, stories, and perspectives of Native American communities, making them essential viewing for anyone interested in contemporary cinema.
Smoke Signals (1998)
While Smoke Signals technically premiered in the late ’90s, it had a significant impact on the 2000s film landscape. Directed by Chris Eyre and written by Sherman Alexie, this critically acclaimed film features an almost entirely Native American cast and tells the story of two young men who embark on a journey to retrieve the remains of a loved one. The film is celebrated for its humor, heart, and exploration of Native American identity.
The Business of Fancydancing (2002)
Directed by Sherman Alexie, this powerful drama delves into themes of identity, culture, and sexuality within the context of modern Native American life. The film follows the life of a successful gay Native American poet who returns to his reservation for a funeral, sparking reflection and difficult conversations. The Business of Fancydancing is a poignant exploration of the complexities of cultural identity.
Powwow Highway (1989)
Although technically a late ’80s release, PowwowHighway continued to resonate in the 2000s. Directed by Jonathan Wacks, this road trip film stars Gary Farmer and A Martinez as two Native American friends who journey across the American West. The film offers a unique perspective on contemporary Native American life and showcases the importance of cultural preservation.
Barking Water (2009)
Directed by Sterlin Harjo, Barking Water is a touching and intimate film that explores the relationship between an elderly Native American couple as they travel through the Oklahoma countryside. The film’s genuine portrayal of love and family ties earned it acclaim on the festival circuit and showcases the storytelling talent of its Native American director.
Imprint is a haunting short film directed by Michael Linn, who is of Chickasaw heritage. Set in the late 1800s, the film revolves around a Native American woman’s encounter with a mysterious traveler. The short, just over 10 minutes long, masterfully captures a sense of unease and intrigue while highlighting the rich cultural heritage of its characters.
These five movies and short films from the 2000s offer a diverse range of perspectives, from humor and drama to introspection and cultural exploration. They not only feature Native American actors and filmmakers but also contribute to a greater understanding of Native American culture and the experiences of indigenous peoples in the modern world. Whether you’re a cinephile or simply interested in diverse storytelling, these films are a must-watch.