Drunktown’s Finest is writer/director Sydney Freeland’s look at life on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico. It is harsh and brutally honest, but also loving and hopeful.
In the pre-show intro, Ms Freeland said that the movie was a coming of age story for three genders, and that sounds about right. Good girl Nizhoni, adopted by white parents but eager to find her roots; Sick Boy waiting to ship out for the army but unable to stay out of trouble; two-spirited trans girl Felixia dreaming of being a model while still respecting her heritage.
As a coming of age tale, the themes are about choices, recognising the consequences of your actions, and figuring out which of your dreams to hold onto. For Felixia and Sick Boy those dreams involve leaving, but in the end, maybe they found something better. Nizhoni had already lived abroad, but wished to reconnect with her biological family. She got exactly what she wanted and more, facing the unpleasant truth that her adopted parents had been lying to her for years.
But Drunktown’s Finest isn’t as trite as “stick with your people” or “follow traditions”. It is about a nurturing community with a culture of respect for gender variance, but also a lot of violence, homophobia, drug use and alcoholism, and people with neither solid roots not a future to look forward to. Nothing is glossed over, and no one is pretending there are easy answers. There’s no telling where Sick Boy, Felixia and Nizhoni will go from here, but the movie’s conclusion was a new beginning rather than an end. There’s hope. There’s always hope.
It was also an unusual and welcome experience to see see the world through another culture’s eyes and where the white people are seen as “others”: Nizhoni’s well-meaning but condescending parents; the ditzy blonde girl who (for whatever reason) tried out for a Navajo women’s calendar shoot; Felixia’s could-have-been sugar daddy on Facebook. It’s refreshing.
Drunktown’s Finest written and directed by Sydney Freeland. No further showings at the 2014 Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
Nicolas Demers is a web developer and blogger living in Vancouver’s West End. In his spare time he enjoys science-fiction, photography, and is actively involved with the Vancouver Gay Volleyball Association.