Fancy Dance

Fancy Dance
Original title:Fancy Dance
Director:Erica Tremblay
Running time:90 minutes
Release date:Not communicated
Following the disappearance of her sister, a Native American con artist kidnaps her niece from the child's white grandparents and travels to the state powwow in the hope of keeping what's left of their family intact.

Mulder's Review

In Erica Tremblay's directorial debut, Fancy Dance, the story unfolds as a clever family drama, interwoven with elements of a slow-burn road movie and the cinematic essence of a crime thriller. This bold cinematic creation establishes Erica Tremblay as an emerging force in cinema, drawing parallels with renowned directors such as Debra Granik and Taylor Sheridan, while asserting her distinct voice. The film's strength lies not only in its storytelling, but also in the remarkable performances, particularly those of Lily Gladstone and Isabel Deroy-Olson.

At the heart of the film is a family's struggle in the context of an aboriginal community, highlighting the resilience and cultural pride that develop even in the face of adversity. Tremblay's art beautifully captures the hardships and violence endured by aboriginal communities, while highlighting their tenacity and pride as a form of resistance. This intersection of themes resonates strongly with the historical and contemporary struggles of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), weaving a tapestry that resonates on multiple levels.

Led by the incomparable Lily Gladstone, whose portrayal of Jax is a raw, visceral testament to the complexity of the human experience, the cast delivers performances that are both profound and heartbreaking. Gladstone channels the character's outward abrasiveness and raw vulnerability into a deeply compelling portrayal of a woman protecting her own in a world marked by neglect and injustice. At the other end of the spectrum, newcomer Isabel Deroy-Olson shines as Roki, a young teenager navigating the twists and turns of her identity while yearning for a connection with her cultural roots.

The story is set against the backdrop of a young woman's disappearance from an Oklahoma reservation, highlighting the complex web of family ties, societal challenges and the quest for identity. Jax's quest to uncover the truth about her missing sister, Tawi, is fraught with frustration, navigating a labyrinthine system that often ignores native life. Tremblay's direction and co-writer Miciana Alise's poignant script delicately expose the pervasive problems of endemic poverty, racism, the struggle for foster care and drug addiction that plague aboriginal communities.

The film's thematic depth is further enriched by the exploration of the evolving bond between Jax and Roki. In the midst of their tumultuous circumstances, they embark on a journey that transcends mere physical displacement; it becomes an odyssey of personal growth, cultural reclamation and resilience in the face of insurmountable obstacles. Through their interactions, Tremblay masterfully depicts the conflict between modernity and tradition, individual desires and community values, and the undeniable strength of family ties.

Cinematographer Carolina Costa's visual narrative captures the stark beauty of the reserve's landscapes, immersing the audience in the characters' environment. However, the film is equally adept at depicting the squalid urban settings that shape the characters' lives. The visual contrast Costa employs echoes the duality of the narrative: light and darkness, hope and despair, strength and vulnerability.

Fancy Dance reaches its climax during the film's climax, a poignant powwow that encapsulates the heart of indigenous culture, defiance and community. This final sequence testifies to the filmmakers' commitment to authenticity, allowing the characters to find solace, unity and joy in their shared heritage. It's a visual and emotional crescendo that encapsulates the essence of the story - a celebration of culture and resilience in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

Fancy Dance is not just a film, it's an exploration of the Aboriginal experience. Erica Tremblay's directorial debut is a poignant, unflinching examination of the struggles, triumphs and unwavering spirit of Aboriginal communities. The quality of the execution, the depth of the emotions and the power of the actors make this film an important cinematic contribution, navigating the spectrum of human emotions while giving voice to those whose stories deserve to be told. Thanks to its multiple facets and cultural authenticity, Fancy Dance stands out as an exceptional work of art that demands attention and reflection.

Fancy Dance 
Directed by Erica Tremblay
Written by Erica Tremblay, Miciana Alise
Produced by Deidre Backs, Erica Tremblay, Heather Rae, Nina Yang Bongiovi, Tommy Oliver
Starring Lily Gladstone, Isabel Deroy-Olson, Ryan Begay, Shea Whigham, Audrey Wasilewski
Cinematography : Carolina Costa
Edited by Robert Grigsby Wilson
Music by Samantha Crain
Production companies : Significant Productions, Confluential Films
Distributed by Cercamon
Release date : January 20, 2023 (Sundance)
Running time : 90 minutes

Seen on September 8 2023 at Deauville international center

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