Powwow Highway (1989)

“This ain’t the American Dream here. This is the Third World!” One of my favorite road movies, this low-key comedy-drama teams hot-tempered Native American activist “Buddy Red Bow” (A Martinez) with the more simple-minded, philosophical “Philbert Bono” (Gary Farmer), who desires to go on a spiritual quest. The two friends, who reside on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation of Lame Deer, Montana, set out on a journey to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in a beat-up 1964 Buick Wildcat (a “war pony” nicknamed the “Protector” by Philbert) to free Buddy’s estranged sister “Bonnie” (Joannelle Nadine Romero) from jail. The solid cast includes Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves) and Wes Studi (The Last of the Mohicans). Also look for John Trudell as “Louie Short Hair.” However, it is Farmer (Smoke Signals) who steals the show with his unforgettable performance as Philbert (critic Roger Ebert called it “one of the most wholly convincing performances I’ve seen”). Based on a novel by David Seals and directed by Jonathan Wacks, the film bombed at the box office (grossing just $283,747) but gathered steam through word of mouth on video and DVD. It’s now a bona fide cult classic! Farmer portrayed “Nobody” in Jim Jarmusch’s “Psychedelic Western” Dead Man (1995).

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