Photo by Victoria Will/Invision/AP.
From left, Sydney Freeland, Carmen Moore, Jeremiah Bitsui and MorningStar Angeline pose for a portrait at Quaker Good Energy Lodge

Drunktown's Finest Gets Raves in Europe (Now on iTunes)

Jason Morgan Edwards
11/8/15

After a plethora of European screenings in such cities as Paris, Grenoble and Nantes and countries such as  Poland, Turkey and Great Britain, Drunktown's Finest, which won Best Feature Film and Best in Class at the Santa Fe Indian Market two years ago, is being received exceptionally well in Europe.

In addition, the film can now come to your home via iTunes

Navajo writer and director Sydney Freeland says it’s been a whirlwind tour for a film that boasts a near all-Native cast, including Jeremiah Bitsui, Carmen Moore, Morningstar Angeline and Kiowa Gordon. According to Freeland, Drunktown is foremost a human story that transcends race and nationality. It just happens to be set in a Native town.

“You have this film that you create, and you kind of set it loose in the world. And, you have no idea how people are going to react; whether they accept it or reject it.  It's been an amazing ride because people have responded well,” says Freeland.

Though the film has been on a world tour, Freeland admits she still feels closest to the responses on her home turf in New Mexico.

“I think the biggest of all these film screenings was in Gallup, in my hometown, in front of a sold-out crowd.  The Mayor attended and the fact that people laughed, cried and enjoyed the film… That means the world to me. That's why you do this, to make something that people can relate to."

Freeland has long acknowledged the criticism of the film's title, Drunktown.  

"I was born and raised in Gallup, which was notorious for its high rate of alcoholism. When ABC’s 20/20 came to my hometown they did a segment called Drunktown, U.S.A.  That experience always stuck with me.

“You take screen-writing in college and they teach you to write what you know. I started re-visiting all this stuff from growing up and I thought, 'What if we could show another side of Drunktown?  What if we were able to show how diverse this place is, and how dynamic all these people are?'

"One of the things that were very important for me was to try to tell the best possible story. That meant being as honest and true to the characters as I could be while portraying things that could be seen in a negative light.  It lets you appreciate the positive when it does come around. Any character, in any story, has to go through some kind of change.  They have to have an arc.  If the character is the same at the beginning of the story as they are at the end of the story… What's the point?”

“The main point overall,” says Freeland, “is that every film has to have a conflict. Any story needs to have conflict in order to have resolution at the end. That said, I didn't want a film that had a tragic ending.  That would have been too easy.  I also, however, didn’t want to have an ending where everyone lives happily ever after. That would have not been honest to the circumstances.  It was really about finding a balance between the two, and leaving the audience with a sense of hope."

Though her film has been well-received all over the world, Freeland keeps her success in perspective.  "We're fortunate to have screened a lot of festivals and we were fortunate enough to be selected for the Sundance Film Festival, but we're still trying to get distribution.”

Freeland has just finished directing a web series called Her Story (http://herstoryshow.com/) that ‘looks inside the dating lives of trans & queer women as they navigate the intersections of desire & identity’ and is slated to direct another feature in 2016 entitled, Deidra and Laney Rob a Train.  

Future screenings and updates on Drunktown’s Finest can be found at: www.drunktownsfinest.com and on their Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/drunktown.movie.

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Sophie Gergaud
Submitted by Sophie Gergaud on
In Paris, Grenoble, Nantes and La Turballe (Brittany), Drunktown's Finest was presented as part of the french film festival "Festival Ciné Alter'Natif" organized by De la Plume à l'Ecran - Oct. 2nd-10th 2015. It was indeed received exceptionally well with full-house screenings in every city and awesome Q&As (one even lasted 1 hour and a half in Grenoble!). Drunktown's Finest won the Audience Award 2015 and Sydney Freeland, along with Steven Paul Judd and Concepcion Suarez were amazing guests! For more information on the Festival Ciné Alter'Natif : www.delaplumealecran.org / Facebook : Festival Ciné Alter'Natif
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