CITY - "American Indian Graffiti" is a new film written
and directed by Native Oklahomans Tvli Jacob, Choctaw, and Steve
Judd, Choctaw/Kiowa. The film premiered Feb. 20 at the Individual
Artists of Oklahoma Gallery in Oklahoma City, and it will also play
at Dakota State University in Madison, S.D. on April 15. The filmmakers
formed Restless Natives Motion Picture Company to make movies by,
about, for, and featuring American Indians. Their objective is to
show American Indian people in a realistic light.
the filmmakers have been in a rush to finish the project, "American
Indian Graffiti" has only been shown in Oklahoma's "Bare
Bones International Film Festival," where it won the Grand
movie is about Native Americans in a contemporary setting,"
said co-director, co-writer, and co-star Steve Judd. "Kimberly
Norris Guerrero, who was in 'Dreamkeeper' and 'Seinfeld' (in the
cigar store Indian episode), flew in from Los Angeles to do a part
in our film. Yvonne Russo, who helped produce 'Naturally Native,'
Chris Freihofer, who was in 'O' and 'Eye of God,' the artist Richard
Ray Whitman, and the rest of the leads are all American Indians
film is set in a fictional town and intertwines the stories of four
individuals over a summer. Judd likens the structure to Paul Thomas
Anderson's modern classic "Magnolia," where the separate
stories slowly come together at the end of the narrative. He said
that, like graffiti, it all becomes one big picture. "The main
story is about two girls who graduated out of high school and, like
a lot of people, they talk about going to California or New York
when they graduate, but one of the girls decides she wants to work
in the summer and go to school," Judd said. "The other
girl, unbeknownst to her friend, is dying, and this will be her
last trip so, they get into an argument about it. The mother and
the twin sister of the girl that wants to go to school both died
when she was born. The girl always wondered why she lived, but it
turns out the secret everyone knew, but her, was that her mother
tried to abort her. That part is about her coming to acceptance,
and about the girls' friendship.
other story, featuring Richard Ray Whitman in the lead, is about
a mechanic who had a drunk driving accident when he was in his twenties
that killed his wife and his son. His mother lived, but she doesn't
want anything to do with him, so he's a loner, almost suicidal.
One day a 7-year-old girl wanders into his shop, her mother didn't
want to take care of her; she's always out with the guys. It's about
the unlikely friendship between the girl and the man.
third story is about an artist who, since he was a little kid, has
never seen a blank canvas," Judd continued. "There was
always a picture on every canvas he sees, so he paints over the
pictures. He becomes famous and is about to become the next big
thing, then all of the sudden he loses his artistic ability when
he sees a blank canvas for the first time in his life, and it follows
his downward spiral from there. The film goes back and forth from
story to story; everyone is involved in each other's story."
wanted to make a movie that not only reflected American Indian life,
but his own experience of growing up in Oklahoma, where Native culture
is integrated into mainstream society. "When I was growing
up I probably liked more mainstream films, while Tvli was really
into foreign films and art films," Judd said. "When I
a kid I saw 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and I realized there was never
a movie where I could see someone who looks like me. It's not that
I couldn't identify with the film, I would go home and pretend to
be Indiana Jones, but I could never say 'Wow! That could be me.'
Tvli and I wanted to make movies that could star any nationality.
Our movies are about Native Americans, but it doesn't focus on the
phenomenon of being Native American. There are plenty of movies
that do that, and I love them, but we wanted to get a different
take on it. Also, most films about Native Americans are usually
about some northern tribe out on the reservation. Of course, if
you talk to Indians in Oklahoma, it's slightly different."
Indian Graffiti" was shot on digital video and Judd described
it as "a zero budget film." However, that will not be
the case in his next project. "Smoke Signals" director
Chris Eyre showed his film "Skins" at the University of
Oklahoma, where Judd and Jacob managed to get a rough cut of their
film to him. Eyre liked it and gave the young directors a quote
for their poster. "If we were African-American, he would be
like Spike Lee to me," Judd said. "He's the only director
who has done anything that is known in the mainstream. He's like
a brand name." Eyre is set to produce Restless Natives' next
project, which will be an action movie.
Indian Graffiti' is not a movie for everyone," Judd said. "It's
not artsy, in the sense that you'll see a cow walking out of the
middle of nowhere, but it's artsy in that you would see it more
in art theaters, because it is on digital video, and it's character
driven. It's a slice of life. We shot the movie on the cheap, and
it's pretty much for people who want to see a story, and we hope
they like it and enjoy it. We did our best."
find out more and to download the trailer of the film, visit http://www.restless-natives.com.