We did our second film presentation on The Business of Fancy Dancing, a Native American film directed by Sherman Alexie.
The protagonist of the Film, Seymour, struggles to deal with his day-to-day life and his conflict in identity. His identity as an urban gay man with a white boyfriend constantly clashes with his native American indian heritage and this is a constant source of pain and distress for him throughout the film, which explores this clash throughout his college and early adulthood years. Seymour also has literary success through his career as a famed American Indian poet, which results in critical acclaim from non-Indians and a certain degree of scorn and disapproval from Indians within and out of his community and reservation. Due to the struggle to find full acceptance in either groups of people, the protagonist struggles with alienation and discomfort in both worlds. He claims every time he sits down to write a poem that there is no escape from writing about something Indian themed, within an interview which takes place over the course of the film but in fragmented sections.
When Seymour returns to the reservation for the funeral of one of his friends Mouse who was a violinist, his internal conflict becomes increasingly worse because his relatives and childhood friends on the reservation question his motivation for writing Indian-themed poems and selling them to the mainstream public. This film delves into detail about many modern day issues that contemporary American Indians face such as substance abuse, difficult stereotypes, and cultural assimilation. Overall, I would label The Business of Fancy Dancing, as a solid film with a very intriguing fragmented plot that enhances the overall message of the film. The main, and clashing themes of heritage and self-discovery wove together very well in order to tell Seymour’s story, and overall helped to portray him as a three dimensional character with a great degree of depth. In terms of criticism, the acting was said to have been largely improvised, and this is greatly evident in the awkward manner in which some of the characters appear to behave on occasion. This is somewhat ironic given the widespread and critically acclaimed Sherman Alexie (director of “Smoke Signals), who’s previous movies and other successful productions are more representative of the director’s high quality of work.