Smoke Signals

1998 Drama

This dramatic feature was written, directed, and co-produced by Native Americans. Native American writer Sherman Alexie scripted this adaptation of his 1993 short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Director Chris Eyre's previous short Someone Kept Saying Powwow is incorporated into the 88-minute feature. Developed at the Sundance Lab in 1995, the film was a winner of both the Audience Award and the Filmmakers' Trophy at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival. In 1976, an infant survives a fire that kills his parents. In a flash forward to the present day, the infant has grown up to become the skinny, nerdy adult Thomas (Evan Adams). At Idaho's desolate Coeur d'Alene Indian reservation, the overeager youth is mostly ignored by others, including stoic athletic Victor Joseph (Adam Beach), even though it was Victor's father, alcoholic Arnold Joseph (Gary Farmer), who saved the infant Thomas' life in the fire. A drunken Arnold later abandoned his family, and Victor hasn't seen his father in a decade. When Victor learns of Arnold's death in Phoenix, Thomas offers to pay for the trip to Phoenix if he can accompany Victor. They make an odd couple since Victor is embarrassed by Thomas' geekiness. In Phoenix, they find that Arnold lived in a small trailer in the desert, and they meet Arnold's friend Suzy Song (Irene Bedard), who provides disturbing truths about Arnold that impact on Victor. more..

Director: Chris Eyre

Starring: Adam Beach, Evan Adams, Irene Bedard, Gary Farmer


  • Beach and Adams give remarkable performances that grow in feeling and intensity.

    Peter Travers - Rolling Stone

    27 April 2013

  • Beautiful in both its brevity and its vision of contemporary Indian culture, the film abounds in easygoing humor.

    Peter Stack - The San Francisco Chronicle

    27 April 2013

  • What's truly remarkable about Smoke Signals is the depth of the narrative, a touching tale of self-discovery.

    - The A.V. Club

    27 April 2013

  • The film excels in small scenes of cannily chosen Indian everydayness.

    Lisa Schwarzbaum - Entertainment Weekly

    27 April 2013

  • The cast is uniformly excellent in their roles, and Eyre's persistent use of long, trailing shots reinforces the story's elegiac tone.

    Marc Savlov - Austin Chronicle

    27 April 2013


  • Best Film

    American Indian Film Festival (1998)

  • Best Actor

    Chlotrudis Awards (1999)

  • Newcomer of the Year

    Florida Film Critics Circle Awards (1999)

  • Chris Eyre

    Gotham Awards (1998)

  • Best Debut Performance

    Independent Spirit Awards (1999)