Drunktown’s Finest is writer/director Sydney Freeland’s look at life on a Navajo reservation 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 basically 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 involved leaving, but in the end, maybe they found something better. Nizhoni 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 what I got out of the movie isn’t as trite as “stick with your people” or “follow traditions”. What I saw was 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 nor 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.
Incidentally, it was an unusual (and welcome) experience for me to see see the world through another culture’s eyes, and white people 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.