• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

SUNDANCE REVIEW: Native Showcase Doc Fails to 'Grab' Audience

The Bottom Line

Doc about an obscure Native American celebration is much too long even at an hour.

Venue:

Sundance Film Festival, Native Showcase

Director-Screenwriter-Producer:

Billy Luther

PARK CITY — (Native Showcase) An extraordinarily thin subject to hang a doc on, the annual ceremony in Grab might have supported a middling 5-10 minute short but makes no sense at an hour. The Native American topic explains the film's appearance at Sundance, but after this it will be lucky to see a slot on educational TV.

More effort has been expended on a couple of stylized elements -- a tilt-shift credits sequence and a model of traditional buildings fashioned from cereal boxes -- than on finding compelling moments among the snippets of daily life Billy Luther has shot in the tiny New Mexico villages of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. Here, an annual ritual is held in which certain families take to the roofs of their homes and throw gifts at an eager crowd below.

The goods were once handmade wares and produce, but these days they're mostly store-bought -- lots of processed foods, like cookies and cereal, thrown in bulk to a crowd that, for the most part, could stand to eat a more nutritious diet.

Read by Parker Posey, the flat narration lays lines like "water is life for the people and the land" over mundane images that often have little to do with the movie's subject. The script's educational value is trivial and entertainment factor is nil.

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, Native Showcase
Production Company: World of Wonder Productions
Director-Screenwriter-Producer: Billy Luther
Executive producers: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Directors of photography: Gavin Wynn, Huy Truong, Jay Visit
Music: David Benjamin Steinberg
Editor: Tracee Morrison
Sales: Passion Distribution
No rating, 60 minutes