September 17, 2009

Low-budget film explores Native humor

Two Indians TalkingAdam is a university-educated Native of the Seventh Generation, raised to believe that knowledge is the Indian’s best tool for survival. Nathan is a high school dropout whose dreams have been consistently crushed in his endurance of the past 20 years. On the eve of their nation’s roadblock, the cousins prepare for the impending battle in a communal apartment that they paint with heartfelt conversation and humorous debate about life, culture, women, literature, dreams, politics, education, poverty, and about hope for the future—if any.

TWO INDIANS TALKING is a rare combination of both artistic and commercial merit. This feature film script is written by BC First Nations writer, Andrew Genaille (CLEAN FIGHT, JOHNNY TOOTALL), and cracks open the truth of many conversations surrounding what’s going on in Native communities today. Progressive opinions collide with traditional ways and the story never sinks into self-pity or defeatism about what is being faced. Do these men believe in their cause enough to risk their lives on a roadblock? Is this even an appropriate way to get the chance to address their community’s challenges?

First Nations audiences will identify with the truth and humour of these characters and their questions. Non-First Nations audiences will gain insight and get to hear discussions that often feel off-limits about what’s going on around, and among, all of us.
New low-budget native film explores First Nations' sense of humour.

By Randy ShoreIn a nod to Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, two young native men who plan to participate in a native roadblock spend hours talking about their issues in every way under the sun. One is university-educated and urbanized in the white world, the other a rez boy, who has never lived anywhere but on the reservation.

The main characters are played by veteran actor Nathaniel Arcand (Heartland) and newcomer Justin Rain.
And:"Humour is how we get through those dark times," Genaille said. "The humour between them is the kind you see between aboriginals all the time. There's teasing and they are making fun of themselves."

It's an image of First Nations people that the broader community seldom sees.

"When aboriginals are in the media, it's always something dark, a confrontation," Genaille said. Images from roadblocks are fraught with tension and the threat of violence, but that's not all that's going on.

"If you visit a roadblock, the natives are there for their political reasons, but they have a weird sense of humour about it," he said. "I've seen the RCMP sitting around with the guys, drinking coffee and laughing, but you don't see that in the media."

"Natives are a silly bunch of people."

Humour plays multiple roles in native culture, in particular, gentle mocking and teasing, as a way of forming friendships and defusing tension. It's often so subtle, that overly earnest Caucasians miss it entirely, a fact many natives exploit for their amusement, just to see how long it will take their hapless victims to catch on. Teasing functions as a First Nations IQ test for outsiders.
Comment:  I love talk fests such as My Dinner with Andre and Before Sunrise, so I'll probably enjoy this film. But I'm not convinced that any film about two people talking has "commercial merit."

For more on the subject, see Sherman Alexie on Stereotypes and The Indian and the White Guy.

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