July 02, 2008

Russ reviews Turquoise Rose

Kiowa correspondent Russell Bates reviews the independent film Turquoise Rose, which was made by an Anglo filmmaker with a Navajo cast.

[Alert: This review includes spoilers.]Finally writerfella has seen TURQUOISE ROSE, and he realizes it falls into the gulf between Native filmmaking and non-Native filmmaking. It reportedly was made on the cheap by several earnest Caucasian ex-Gulf War II veterans, but the film itself only proves that earnestness is no excuse, Gulf War II or no. Despite contemporary Native 'actors' and real Native locations, the film is a polyglot mess. The 'screenplay' is fraught by thin storytelling and no story narrative cohesion. The film is choppy, abrupt, pedestrian, and is shot and edited like a TV show. Truly it more is like a TV commercial in that it is made up of short scenes and has neither master scenes nor wide angles. The camera handling drifts restlessly, subjectively, and somewhat aimlessly, even distantly, done by people who believe that camera motion makes up for lack of action on the actors' parts or in the various scenes. TURQUOISE ROSE basically is a succession of jumbled sequences only loosely related. Things in the film just happen as we watch, sometimes without any exposition. There is not enough subtitling, for that matter, as much that is said in Navajo goes right over the heads of non-Navajo speakers. TURQUOISE ROSE assumes that we as viewers know it all and never stops to explain or otherwise to show causality. It is ten minutes before anyone says the name of the title character and Rose, as such, always should be an unbroken viewpoint character. Her viewpoint is forgotten several times as scenes occur that she cannot witness. Supposedly, the 'back to the Rez' storyline is that she is a fish out of water but in fact she merely finds herself in a smaller pond. The audience therefore cannot identify with Rose and merely winds up confused by her travails. There are crowd scenes in which there obviously are no crowds. Rose and Harry become sweethearts seemingly because they both are young and Navajo. Though the 'actors' self-consciously are playing themselves, two sequences do stand out--a scene when Rose is shooting photos of her grandmother and one near the end when Harry shows Rose the sculpture of herself. But the indifferent character development robs both of their real significance. Credibility also is lost when one notices that Rose's camera likely costs more than the equipment used to make the film. After the grandmother dies, the film really flounders. Following the statue scene, the film just...ends. There is a soundtrack but it is nondescript, overly repetitive, pointless, and distracting. All in all, it had a fair drumbeat, was easy to Ghost Dance to, and writerfella gives it a 7.5...(out of 100).

All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'
Comment:  Tell us what you really thought, Russ. Was Turquoise Rose any good? ;-)

I haven't seen it myself, but I'll review it when I do.

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

6 comments:

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
writerfella saw a film-in-progress at the Two Rivers Native Film Festival in Minneapolis in 1993 but cannot locate its title. A Navajo boy is sent to the rez to live with his grandfather after narrowly surviving gang activity in Los Angeles. He is shown through daily life that what he once was proud to embrace and emulate is worth far less than his identity as a Navajo. The viewer learns the things the boy is learning and the character grows both as a person and as a touchstone for the audience. TURQUOISE ROSE is NOT such a film...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

3xFast said...

A white guy pretending to be ndn introducing an ndn to review a film about ndns by a white guy.

Say that 3 times fast.

Rob said...

If you're referring to me, 3xfast, I'm not pretending to be anything. I'm a pure WASP and have never said differently.

April said...

Where can I find this movie?

Rob said...

For starters, try the official website:

http://www.turquoiserosethemovie.com

Rob said...

It's now available on Amazon.com, too.