Reel Restoration in Drunktown's Finest Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Drunktown’s Finest, a 2014 feature-length film directed by Sydney Freeland (Diné), tells the stories of Luther “Sick Boy” Maryboy (Jeremiah Bitsui), Nizhoni Smiles (MorningStar Angeline), and Felixia John (Carmen Moore), set in the fictional border town of Dry Lake. Freeland renders a visual counternarrative of her hometown, Gallup, New Mexico, featured in an episode of the TV show 20/20 (ABC) that highlighted the alcohol epidemic and gave Gallup the derogatory nickname “Drunk Town, USA.” The characters’ stories on the virtual reservation parallel the real-life stories of many Indigenous people on reservations and in border towns, urban areas, and rural communities. As representative of diverse Diné cultural and political identities, Sick Boy’s, Nizhoni’s, and Felixia’s stories unfold from their aversion to the Navajo Nation to embracing it. The analysis is framed with the Diné philosophy and epistemology of hózhǫ́, translated as to be in a state of wellness, balance, peace, and harmony, culminating in beauty. Acknowledging the significance of k’é (kinship and family), ceremony, stories, and language anchored in Navajo land, the film addresses disharmony, sickness, alcoholism, and disconnection and seeks restoration through hózhǫ́. “Reel restoration” conveys how Drunktown’s Finest benefits Indigenous peoples from creatives to viewers against decades of aggressive, violent, and anti-Indigenous imagery, restoring their indigeneity, humanity, and ultimately their hózhǫ́.

publication date

  • 2020