As one of the only Native American — no — American Indian directors in the biz, Smoke Signals filmmaker Chris Eyre knows a little something about setting a movie on a reservation. But nothing could have prepared him for his latest effort — the just-released low-budget drama Skins.
For starters, there was the hurdle of filming in the impoverished Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. "There's no economy in Pine Ridge," he tells TV Guide Online. "There's 75 percent unemployment. They didn't even have motels [for us] to stay in. We had to stay an hour and a half outside of Pine Ridge in an adjacent town and drive two and a half hours each day."
Skins, about an alcoholic Vietnam vet (Graham Greene) and his protective younger brother, deals with a touchy subject in the Indian community. "People come up to me and say, 'Aren't you perpetuating a stereotype about Indians and alcohol?' And I'm like, 'Aren't you in denial that there's a problem here?'
"An Indian lady [who saw Skins] said, 'It's Native Americans, not Indians,'" he continues. "I'm so tired of touchy-feely political correctness! 'Native American' is about guilt. It's about people wanting to show respect for other people because of the legacy that's been committed on Indians in this country.
"Somebody, somewhere after smoking pot said, 'Hey, let's call Indians 'Native Americans' — like African Americans. If it were Indian people that wanted to have their name changed in the mainstream [language], it would never be acknowledged."