Frybread Face and Me follow two adolescent Navajo cousins from different worlds as they bond during a summer on their grandmother’s Arizona ranch, learning more about their family’s past and themselves. The dramedy had its world premiere at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, its international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and numerous festivals since. Written and directed by Native American filmmaker Billy Luther of the Navajo, Hopi, and Laguna Pueblo tribes, his previous credits include the award-winning documentary Miss Navajo.
There is some limited narration from an older Benny looking back in time. Living in San Diego with his parents, eleven-year-old Benny (Keir Tallman) is of Navajo roots he has not been exposed to. His mama suddenly sends him to spend the 1990 summer with his non-English-speaking grandmother Lorraine (Sarah H. Natani) in Arizona on the reservation. Since he has never been introduced to his indigenous family members, he feels out of place. He misses San Diego, his mama, and an upcoming Fleetwood Mac concert they both share a love of. Benny doesn’t know what may happen with the family back in California. He makes the most of the stay and learns how to communicate and more about the ranch.
Benny meets his cousin Dawn (Charley Hogan), nicknamed Frybread Face because of her looks. She appears about two years older and needs to figure out why Benny is unfamiliar with farm duties, nor speaks Navajo. They slowly learn to get along. Benny is willing to follow Dawn’s guidance without caring what Uncle Marvin (Martin Sensmeier) says, often hurtful and insulting remarks about gender and lifestyle. Dawn ends up softening and teaches him to have a sense of pride in and connection to their shared heritage that had been unfamiliar to him during his early childhood.
There is a touching scene of the grandmother washing Benny’s hair and sharing her wisdom. Although he cannot understand her words, the way he looks at her is both respectful and loving, as he feels her love. There is another relative who shows him love, a very cool and lovely Aunt Lucy (Kahara Hodges), who makes jewelry and sells it to tourists. She also defends him from Uncle Martin, who has his issues. Grandmother weaves and hand-looms traditional rugs also meant to be sold to the tourists.
The coming-of-age dramedy Frybread Face and Me is one to consider viewing because of the engaging performances and the story of this young boy. I love the grandmother/grandson scene when Benny is to return to San Diego. The words she shares with him express a touching and emotional love for almost anyone who misses their grandmother or mother.
Produced by Chad Burris and executive-produced by Taika Waititi.
Runtime is one hour and twenty-two minutes. Frybread Face And Me debuts on Netflix and select US cinemas starting Friday, November 24th.
Source: Array Releasing, Netflix