Native American teen Roki lives with her mother and aunt Jax. They get along by questionable means and think nothing of shoplifting to “save money.” Roki’s mom has been missing for two weeks, and Jax is angry that the police have made no real effort to locate her. Jax, a lesbian, had previous drug trouble but has put that behind her.

There is a big pow-pow coming up in Oklahoma, and Roki is worried her mom won’t make it to the native mother-daughter dance contest they have won in previous years; she doesn’t think anything wrong has happened to her mom, just that she has hooked up with someone. Jax, however, is worried because she thinks drugs or drug dealing may be involved. Social Services becomes aware that the mom is gone and suggests that Jax request custody, but her old drug record becomes known, and Roki is immediately sent to her white grandfather Frank and his new wife.

Knowing Roki wants to go to the pow-wow, Jax slips in and escapes with Roki, stealing Frank’s car. Frank is obligated to report this, and soon, there are amber alerts as the two travel across the country. Jax is angry that no such effort was launched to find her lost sister. Misadventures follow, with clues leading to the disappearance and a final attempt to dance at the pow-wow.

Fancy Dance is a fast-moving, intriguing film that gives us a view of America we don’t usually see. There is an emphasis on the problem of missing native women, and the benefit that keeping ancestral ties can have for young people. The leads in the film are uniformly excellent, with an outstanding performance by Ryan Begay as Jax’sbrother. Good pacing and intriguing characters add to a well-directed and written film.

Writer and Director: Erica Tremblay

Writer: Miciana Alise

Starring: Lily Gladstone as Jax

                Isabel Deroy-Olsen as Roki

                Shea Whigham as Frank

                Ryan Begay as JJ

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