In Review: 'More Than Frybread'

Larry P. Madden

larry p. madden | yl voice | oct. 2017

I like highbrow stories as much as the next guy, but there's always room on my pallet for a good laugh. The marketing of some films makes it puzzling as to which of the aforementioned a guy is going to get. Other times, such as with this film, the title alone can make a guy chuckle. I mean, “More Than Frybread" how could you pass on a title like that?

Through docudrama-style filming, director Holt Hamilton takes us on an adventure to Arizona. There, a well-meaning character named Donathon Littlehair (bald, of course), played by Joe Washington, seeks to unite the tribes of Arizona. His vehicle of choice is the W.W.F.A. (World Wide Frybread Association). Each tribe, with great honor, sends their best frybread contestant and a secret recipe. The winner will receive bragging rights, $10,000 and the chance to represent the state at the national championship in New York City.

Too many cooks in the kitchen and clashes of personalities create some good Indian-based humor. The competitors all have pressure from their respective nations. Then family pride and personal gain all get mixed together as well as the baking powder in the flour. The film is perfectly cast. Much of the talent stood out, but I was especially impressed by one of the competitors who is played by Tatanka Means, son of the late actor and activist Russell Means. A talent for commanding a stage clearly runs in that family.

What makes the film work on a small budget, aside from the humor, is the use of the storytelling device of extensive media coverage. The press makes up both the narrator role and allows one to speculate about a world where frybread would command the world's attention. Then again, it certainly commands the room at any Indian gathering.

Betty Muchvo, Hopi Princess and frybread goddess, played by Jennifer Joseph, is a part to be enjoyed. But as in many Indian tales, humor with a serious underlying life lesson is common. So as in this tale, the pretzeled activities bring all to task. Lessons of pride, greed, ego and ambition all have their price. Twists and turns abound on the way to the finish of this lighthearted spoof.

The film toured quite extensively in Canada. When the daily grind, nuclear threat and racial unrest have you stressed, find relief in 90 minutes that's just fun all around. I don't see any Oscar nominations in the future, but I guarantee a few smiles.

Larry P. Madden (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Wisconsin) was born and raised in the Sturgeon Bay area. A recent graduate of CMN, he enjoys the Powwow trail and strives to maintain balance on the red road.

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