"A Minor Christian Gem"
Unexpected pleasures are sometimes one of the benefits of going to small independent movies that have little chance of earning much of a profit. NATURALLY NATIVE is one of them. Not only is it a unique little movie that lets people see an aspect of America that audiences don’t often get; it also contains a strong explicit Christian worldview where God is lifted up, even in forgiveness, and moral values are expressed. In addition, it reportedly is the first movie made totally by Native Americans that was also completely financed by Native Americans!
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.
(CC, BB, CapCap, Pa, PC, LL, V, S, N, AA, M) Christian worldview with moral principles expressed, insensitive palm reader is rebuked, prayers are said, & an answered prayer reunites three Native American sisters with their extended family & gains them personal success, plus strong pro-capitalist & anti-tax, anti-government sentiments expressed & some vestiges of pagan Native American religion & political correctness, but no mention of pagan deities in English dialogue (the movie does not translate some Native American chants); 2 strong obscenities, 7 mild obscenities, 4 mild exclamatory profanities, & 2 strong exclamatory profanities; woman punches man & blind date forces physical attentions on young woman, then hits her, knocks her to ground & kicks her when she tries to fight him off; married couple shown in bed together after implied two nights of passion & also hugging & kissing in bathtub prior to one such night; upper male nudity, including during bathtub scene, shots of cleavage & woman in sexy underwear; alcohol use & drunkenness plus references to mother who died of alcoholism; and, Indian gaming approved by heroines, woman tries to find mate through computer, woman has trouble controlling her anger, & sisters go to government bureaucrat for business loan.
In NATURALLY NATIVE, three Christian sisters, who happen to also be Native Americans, use prayer to help them start a business together and reunite with their tribal extended family at a Mission Indian reservation. The eldest of the three sisters leads them in prayer at a few crucial moments, but must overcome her own battle with the alcoholism she inherited from her mother. An answered prayer from God helps the three sisters in the movie’s resolution.
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