Female filmmaker Sydney Freeland’s feature debut is an interesting look at the lives of three people who live in or are connected to the Navajo reservation in New Mexico that has been dubbed “Drunktown.” Robert Redford served as an executive producer on the movie, which is called “Drunktown’s Finest,” and it has won several awards at film festivals.
Freeland starts the film by showing us scenes from res life and then interweaves the three stories throughout the film until we learn how the lives of the main characters are connected.
One character, who is nicknamed “Sick Boy” (played by Jeremiah Bitsui of “Breaking Bad”), struggles against his own tendency to be a screw-up. He faces fatherhood and wants to learn to be responsible, but alcoholism and perhaps habit gets in the way of what appears to be a good heart.
Another character, Felixia (played by Carmen Moore), is a transsexual who secretly turns tricks and tries to pass as female despite the presence of male genitalia – an issue that gets in the way of the modeling career she so desperately wants.
The third character, Nizhoni (played by Morningstar Angeline) is a teenager who was adopted by white parents when her Navajo parents were killed in a car accident. Going against her adoptive parents’ wishes, she searches for her family on the reservation.
While the performances are occasionally uneven, the stories and characters are all compelling, and I found the film to be quite moving without becoming heavy-handed (there are several lighthearted moments).
“Drunktown’s Finest” opened at the Quad in New York on Fri., Feb. 20 and opens in Los Angeles on Fri., Feb. 27. It will roll out in other cities soon as well. Visit the film’s website for details.