A Minor Christian Gem
Release Date: October 01, 1999
Genre: Family comedy-drama
Audience: Older teenagers & adults
Runtime: 108 minutes
Distributor: Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation
Writer: Valerie Red-Horse
Address Comments To:Red-Horse Native Productions
American Indian Film Institute
333 Valencia Street Suite 322
San Francisco, CA 94103
Tel. 415. 554. 0525
Fax 415. 554. 0542
The movie opens with a typical suburban celebration of a graduation in a nice home in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, California. Young Karen has just earned her MBA degree. Her older married sister, Vickie, is throwing the party for her, while their younger sister, Tanya, is enjoying, but not responding to, the attentions of their friend Mark. Meanwhile, Vickie’s husband Steve is taping the party with his video camera. This is a typical suburban family in America, except that the family members are all Native Americans, not counting some of their guests.
The audience soon learns that Vickie inherited the house from the sisters’ adoptive Caucasian mother. Their real mother was an alcoholic, a disease that led to her death while giving birth to Tanya. Karen has a chance at a job in Chicago, but when she discovers that Vickie is using a bunch of recipes for organic ointments and toiletries she got from their real father before he died, the three sisters try to go into business together. The problem is, they need at least $25,000 to start the business. Meanwhile, Karen and Tanya have romantic problems, and the frustrations of trying to start their business and earn enough money to pay for some higher property taxes are making Vickie look longingly at a bottle of wine which she and Steve received as a gift.
The best thing about this movie is that the three sisters explicitly say that they are Christians. They pray to God together and say things like, “Just give the Creator a chance.” Vickie, moreover, asks God for forgiveness at an important point. In the movie’s resolution, an answered prayer to God not only resolves their economic problems but also reunites them with their original tribe of Mission Indians. Also, when they find out that one potential business investor happens to be an occult, New Age psychic and palm reader who believes in reincarnation and insensitively uses Native American artifacts to spout New Age mumbo jumbo, Vickie gets angry and reads the woman the riot act!
The acting by Valerie Red-Horse as Vickie, Irene Bedard (the voice of Pocahontas in POCAHONTAS) as Tanya, Kimberly Norris Guerrero as Karen, and Pato Hoffmann as Steve is very natural and realistic, almost matter-of-fact. Particularly noteworthy was the sincerity these actors all gave to their roles, especially Kimberly as Karen and Pato as Steve. Valerie Red-Horse also wrote the script and co-directed the movie with Jennifer Wynne Farmer. She has provided much humor and some important drama in this first of, hopefully, many feature-length ventures.
There are several reasons, however, to give NATURALLY NATIVE a mild caution for older children and adults.
First, there is some foul language. Secondly, despite the Christian worldview, and the pro-capitalist sentiments in the movie, there are some vestiges of Native American paganism. For instance, there are several references to Native American culture, including chants/prayers and a scene with some ritualistic dancing. The meaning of the chants and the dancing are not discussed, however, so if there is any idolatry or other heretical meanings, only a Native American language/cultural expert could tell you. (By the way, when MOVIEGUIDE® checked with a Christian Native American leader about the chant in FREE WILLY, he said that it was a Native American Christian hymn.) Happily, the chants/prayers are all performed in the context of Christianity, because Vickie prays to God in the same scenes. And, the final answered prayer at the end is addressed completely to God and is followed by the song “Amazing Grace” on the soundtrack. Third, the movie includes some political correctness about Native American culture, including a strong defense of Indian gaming. Finally, the movie contains some mild sexual content and violence. For instance, it reveals some of the sexual relationship between Vickie and her husband Steve in several scenes. In the most explicit scene, Steve and Vickie embrace and kiss in a bathtub, but the audience only sees Steve’s chest, some cleavage and parts of legs and arms. In another scene, a blind date that Tanya regrettably accepts tries to take advantage of her, beating her up enough to send her to the hospital, where Vickie, the family and their friend Mark pray to God for her sister’s recovery. This shows that prayers to God and strong moral values play important roles in some of the scenes where the movie’s objectionable content occurs.
All in all, NATURALLY NATIVE is a charming, touching story of family, God and cultural traditions working together to overcome obstacles. This is truly a unique independent movie financed totally by an Indian tribe in Connecticut. As such, it serves as a wonderful role model for the Christian community as a whole. Christians who are so inclined probably will want to catch this one on video if they are unable to do so in the theaters.
NATURALLY NATIVE is a charming, touching and sometimes humorous story of family, God and cultural traditions working together to overcome obstacles. At one point, the sisters even rebuke a potential investor who happens to be an occult fortune teller who believes in reincarnation. Mild caution is advised, however, because of some foul language, mild sexual content, a disturbing but mild scene of violence, and minor worldview problems, including some political correctness. Happily, prayers to God and strong moral values play important roles in the scenes where these problems occur. This is truly a unique independent movie financed totally by an Indian tribe in Connecticut. As such, it serves as a wonderful role model for the Christian community as a whole