Theme Tuesday - Indigenous Voices - Drunktown's Finest
For April 2018, I will be exploring films that feature indigenous people in leading roles and feature narratives about the identity of such people and the society that has inevitably oppressed them.
Drunktown’s Finest focuses on many of the same themes I have seen in indigenous narratives. It follows three characters - Sick Boy, Nizohni, and Felixia - and their struggles. Sick Boy (Jeremiah Bitsui) is a immature, volatile young man who is attempting to join the military to support his family but avoids responsibility and gives into temptation easily. Nizohni (Morningstar Angeline) was adopted at a young age, but, unbeknownst to her foster parents, she is seeking the truth about her birth parents. Felixia (Carmen Moore) is a young transgender woman who has sex for money and who is attempting to get into a calendar of Navajo women.
Drunktown’s Finest isn’t a particularly flashy movie. It’s more content to observe characters and get to know them. All the characters are well-defined and fleshed out, even the supporting ones, like Eugene, Felixia’s best friend or Copenhagen and Leroy Leroy, the roadkill cleaners with whom NIzohni volunteers to fulfill her community service hours and find out information about her birth parents. Even the people who might come off as villains, such as the police officer or Nizohni’s parents are treated with humanity, people with understandable (and often justified) motives.
The most compelling narrative is Felixia’s, especially since transgender characters are rare even in mainstream cinema. Sydney Vreeland, as a transgender woman herself, seems to know exactly how to portray Felixia, as a human who wants to be loved and accepted as she presents herself to be. It’s also a nice change of pace that the story doesn’t veer into the tragic, as so many stories about queer people do. I think the movie might have been even better if it had just chosen to focus on Felixia, but we do get a good sense of the community through observing all three of these characters.