Screenplay, Manzano, Riel Brown, Vince Manitowabi, Gail Maurice. Camera (color/B&W), Marcos Arriaga; editor, Jacqueline Carmody; music, Nano Valverde; production designer, Ricardo Barcelo. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Native Forum), Jan. 29, 2000. Running time: 79 MIN.
With: Gail Maurice, Jonathan Fisher, Columpa C. Bobb, Gloria May Eshkibok, Marion Devries, Shirley Cheechoo, Georgina Lightning.
Arguably the most tasteful pic ever made about women loving women behind bars , “Johnnie Greyeyes” is a sincere but soporific drama that is unlikely to find an audience beyond specialty fests. Low-budget production values and stilted storytelling are scarcely enhanced by the uneven acting. Almost all of the central characters are Native Americans, but that’s the only remarkable aspect of this otherwise instantly forgettable Canadian-produced indie.
Pic’s standout performance comes from Gail Maurice as the title character, a woman in her 30s who has spent most of her adult life in and out of correctional facilities. During her final months in a maximum-security prison, Johnnie falls for Lana (Columpa C. Bobb), a hot-tempered inmate who’s much too eager for confrontations with prison guards. Beyond the prison walls, Daytona Clay (Jonathan Fisher), Johnnie’s kid brother, drifts into a robbery plot on the mean streets of Toronto, while Leona (Gloria May Eshkibok), Johnnie’s mother, waits for her two errant children to return home. The tender relationship between the prison inmates is rendered with tact and sympathy. Overall, however, neither Johnnie’s romantic tragedy nor Daytona Clay’s criminal misadventure adds up to much.