This feature debut from Chris Eyre is being billed as the first film written, directed, and co-produced by American Indians, but hanging it on the indigenous hook does Smoke Signals a disservice.
Smoke Signals is alight with oddball nuances and wry observations: the reservation’s radio station, KREZ, uses a broken-down van at the deserted crossroads to gauge the (nonexistent) traffic conditions, and Victor’s mother Arlene (Cardinal) is a master in the fine art of flatbread-making. Subtle, lyrically haunting touches like these evoke a palpable sense of loss and the sub-poverty level of Native American life, but also unite the tribe broken by alcohol and abuse though they may be in long-held beliefs and rituals. It’s Victor who teaches his inanely happy friend to act like a real Indian, and Thomas who forces Victor to confront the ghosts of his past no matter how terrible they may seem. The cast is uniformly excellent in their roles, and Eyre’s persistent use of long, trailing shots reinforces the story’s elegiac tone. Simple and elegant, Smoke Signals is a delicious, heady debut that lingers long after the tale is told. Mark Savlov, Austin Chronicle
I hereby claim Smoke Signals as an Oregon film, based on the Oregon birth of Chris Eyre, the director.