Cinema: They've Gotta Have It

What Spike Lee's film did for African Americans, Smoke Signals aims to do for Native Americans

Our reservation is beautiful this morning--it's a good day to be indigenous," crows a disk jockey at the beginning of Smoke Signals, the first commercial feature film entirely written, directed and acted by Native Americans. It's also a good time to be Sherman Alexie, the film's 31-year-old screenwriter, who previously penned eight books of verse and three highly acclaimed works of fiction, and is now bringing his contemporary tribal sensibilities to Hollywood.

In movies and on television, Indians have traditionally been cast as powerful shamans, ruthless savages or downtrodden drunks living in tar-paper shacks. Not in Alexie's world. Throughout Smoke...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!