Directed by Sterlin Harjo
Mekko gets out of prison after 19 years. He has no home or family so he makes his way to Tulsa. He tries to connect with a cousin but she turns him away. With nowhere to go Mekko ends up sleeping on the streets. He is taken in by the homeless native community. At times jovial, there is a dark undercurrent to the community. He begins having issues with a man named Bill. Bill is pure evil. Convinced that this man is a witch, Mekko turns to the old teachings of his grandmother in order to rid the community of this 'witch'. It's a story of redemption, and hope. Mekko is in search of his home and the strength to forgive himself of his past.
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★★★½ review by Matt Johnson on Letterboxd
An ancient story comes to life in a modern city. Mekko, a native Muscogee, gives people dignity, sees things before they happen and uses what power he possesses to help others. However, he was just released from prison and lives in Tulsa with other chiefs of the street. This is where Mekko encounters Bill who takes advantage of others and claims to be helping them, twists words around, and manipulates people for his own good. Mekko is reminded of a story from his grandmother about spirits, estekini, that change shape and prey upon the weak and unwary. Bill senses Mekko’s growing power and influence and attacks him. An amiable waitress helps Mekko recover. Because sickness must be dealt with before light can be brought back to a community and new spirit or strength can be found, Mekko moves to confront Bill. In order to do this he must keep the fire burning in his own heart. I loved the themes of the film including the interrelation between what is visible and what is shadow. I am intrigued by native culture and treasured the story, characters and independent nature of the film. One of the drawbacks is, as the director put it, there was “no luxury of time.” In other words, he was on a limited budget and couldn’t afford to develop the themes, characters and proper ornaments as should have been available to such a gifted artist. The director, also Native American, is familiar with Tulsa and watched the street chiefs there in order to develop the film.
★★★½ review by Sheryl (Archive) on Letterboxd
A truly captivating magical realist drama about the self - multiple selves, in fact - that's definitely strengthened by the sweeping cinematography that reminds me both of the southern gothic, and its clear sense of history, culture and place. While it dips in and out of monotony, it's definitely something to say I've seen so many American films and none quite like this one. It's powerful and surprising, and rather hopeful in its bleakness, which I rather enjoy. Every performance is also awesome; it's understated and naturalistic (professional actors and otherwise), and Zahn McClarnon is a showstopper.
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