November 15, 2014

Review of The Jingle Dress

Once in a while I get out of the house and see an actual Native movie. Such was the case Saturday when a friend and I attended the LA Skins Fest screening of The Jingle Dress.

The Jingle DressJohn Red Elk hears from his relatives down in Minneapolis that his Uncle Norton is dead and vows to go to the big city to find out what really happened to him. At its heart, "The Jingle Dress" is a contemporary story of a Native American family that moves from their rural home on the reservation in northern Minnesota to the faster paced urban environment of Minneapolis. We follow the Red Elk family as they experience city culture through their unvarnished perspective, as well as gain insight into their Indigenous culture and traditions.

--Written by William Eigen

John Red Elk pulls up stakes and takes his family off the reservation and down to the big city to find out how his long lost Uncle Norton died. Through the fresh eyes of his eight year old daughter Rose, we follow the family as they discover a new, urban culture and gain insight into their own ancient, indigenous society.

--Written by Anonymous

Packed House: Actress Stacey Thunder on 'The Jingle Dress' Sneak Preview ScreeningOn Saturday, April 5, The Jingle Dress made its debut in a sold-out sneak preview screening at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. The film stars Stacey Thunder, Kimberly Guerrero, Chaske Spencer and Steve Reevis. "The screening went great and there was definitely a packed house--chairs were added in the very back of the theater," says Thunder, who took a few moments to discuss the film with ICTMN. (The Jingle Dress will next screen in Minneapolis in about a month, she says, but there is no firm date or venue at this time--follow for updates.)

What's The Jingle Dress about?

It's a contemporary story of a Native American family who move from their rural home on the reservation in northern Minnesota to the faster paced urban environment of Minneapolis. I play Elsie, the mother of the Red Elk family. She is the backbone of the family and loves them dearly. She is very strong, yet sensitive and looks to her husband John (Chaske Spencer) and sister Janet (Kimberly Guerrero), for support. She worries about her family as they experience their new life in Minneapolis.
"The Jingle Dress" films in Northeast

Comment:  My friend and I agreed about The Jingle Dress. Greg Winter's cinematography was gorgeous--well beyond what you see in most low-budget movies. The acting led by Chaske Spencer and Stacey Thunder was fine. But the rest of the movie--the writing, directing, and editing--were poor. There was no tension and not much of a plot. Basically nothing happens.

You can see this in the trailer above, which has the movie's best movies. It tries to hint at a deeper mystery surrounding the uncle's death, but there's no there there. The movie doesn't go any deeper into his death or the family's dislocation than what's in the trailer.

Since I'm a story guy, I don't give The Jingle Dress much credit for looking nice or showing a modern Native family without stereotypes. I expect as much in any serious Native movie. Indeed, I expect more and this film doesn't deliver. Rob's rating: 5.0 of 10.

Below:  "Happy family: Chaske Spencer, S'Nya Sanchez-Hohenstein, Mauricimo Sanchez-Hohenstein, and Stacey Thunder as the Red Elk family in The Jingle Dress."

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