By Wade Sheldon, Tulalip News
A tapestry of tradition, beauty, and heartfelt storytelling unfolds in the latest cinematic gem, ‘Frybread Face and Me.’ Crafted by writer and director Billy Luther, the film narrates the compelling journey of a young Native child thrust from the bustling cityscape into the heart of the Navajo reservation under the care of his grandmother.
As the young protagonist navigates this cultural shift, ‘Frybread Face and Me’ delves deep into themes of identity, family, and the enriching power of heritage. Luther weaves a poignant tale that resonates with audiences, exploring the ties that bind us to our roots. In embracing the Navajo reservation, the young character discovers the beauty of his culture and finds a profound connection to his family and heritage.
Recently, Tulalip News spoke with writer/director Billy Luther about his latest film and what it means to create an authentic Native cinema.
The grandmother is the core structure of the family; can you speak a little about that?
Growing up, my grandmother was always the core of the family, and it was a profound and significant part of my life, not just for me but for my entire family. Making this movie was a tribute to her.
Who has been your inspiration?
The film touches on the women in my life: my aunts, grandmother, and mother. They were part of my childhood, all the stories they would share with me and just being the strong matriarchs, they are.
Why is authentic Native representation so crucial in Hollywood right now?
One of the things is we have Natives behind the camera. That makes a massive difference with stories. We don’t have to try to be authentic when we have Natives behind the camera. We have these shared and lived experiences as Indigenous people. We weren’t trying to get it right, we just knew this world. I think that is so unique and different in Native films by Native peoples because you can tell when there’s a movie not made by a Native.
What do you hope the takeaway is for Native families that watch the film?
I want people to have fun with it. I think it’s something that’s not widely available. I think the first time Natives could go to the theatre and laugh and have a shared experience as a family was 30 years ago with ‘Smoke Signals.’
I also wanted to share an experience that resonated with a larger audience. I am meeting a lot of non-Natives who watch the film, and it takes them back to a time in their lives when they were kids. That’s an integral part of my daily life and the humor and joy of growing up.
What advice do you have for young people trying to enter the movie industry?
It’s tough, it’s tough. I have been in this industry for 20 years. It would be best if you were consistent and not give up because it’s not easy; it’s not easy at all. You must write every day. I’m not saying you need to write a script every day, but you should be writing, reading a lot of books, and watching a lot of films, foreign films, all over in terms of art. That’s a lot of what people miss. They want to make blockbusters, but it’s complex and challenging. I’ve seen many people give up, but if you want to do this, you have to stick with it. There’s a lot of nos.
What else do you want people to know about ‘Frybread Face and Me’?
I hope people are excited about the story, and seeing all the love we are getting is surprising. You work so hard on a film for so many years; it’s not like it took us a year to write, cast, film, and edit. It’s a long process, and it’s been so rewarding. I’m still trying to process how much it resonates with people; it has been a blessing.
Whether you’re a fan of heartwarming stories or just looking for a cozy movie night, ‘Frybread Face and Me’ is ready and waiting for your viewing pleasure. Available for streaming on Netflix today.