Native filmmaker Billy Luther heads to SXSW this weekend to premiere his narrative feature debut, “Frybread Face and Me” on March 11.
Set in the ‘90s, the coming-of-age story follows Benny (Keir Tallman), a young Native American boy who plays with dolls, sports a Fleetwood Mac t-shirt and watches soap operas.
Forced to spend his summer on the reservation with his grandmother, Benny finds himself impressed by his cousin “Frybread” (Charley Hogan) who opens his eyes to life on the rez.
Featuring an entirely Native cast and predominantly Native crew, Luther says it was important to cast Navajo kids at the core of his film. He says, “With the help of Midthunder Casting, which also worked on FX ‘Reservation Dogs,’ we were able to find these incredible kids. The amount of Indigenous talent – Martin Sensmeier, MorningStar Angeline, and Jeremiah Bitsui came on. And we also brought on some amazing new faces from Indian country that are making their feature debut.”
Benny and Frybread’s story is a universal one as they spend a summer together and he learns about his heritage and culture, and ultimately, the two cousins bond. Luther explains, “We all have memories of being left somewhere such as summer camp.”
“Frybread Face and Me” was one of the 10 projects selected as part of the 2020 Sundance Institute Directors and Screenwriters Labs. Chad Burris (“City Boyz” “Ass Backwards”) is on board as the film’s producer.
The semi-autobiographical film also landed Taika Waititi as executive producer.
Waititi read the script and immediately signed on, according to Luther. Waititi is the first Maori to win an Oscar and in his acceptance speech said, “I dedicate this to all the Indigenous kids in the world who want to do art and dance and write stories.” He added, “We are the original storytellers and we can make it here, as well.”
“Frybread Face and Me” premieres on March 11 at Alamo Lamar B.