Barking Water's Hardly Cheerful Native America
Sprung out the hospital by his ex-girlfriend, Frankie (Richard Ray Whitman) is clearly dying. That he is an Indian dying in Indian country makes his homeward journey inherently symbolic: Just as the elderly couple drives their old Volvo wagon to a certain funeral, the old ways are dying, too. Writer-director Sterlin Harjo is a Seminole-Creek Indian, and he refuses to detour the trip into sentimentality or pathos. Barking Water is hardly a cheerful representation of Native America (or, specifically, Oklahoma). Frankie and Irene (Casey Camp-Horinek) were never married, and there are suggestions he mayve been a bastard to her. But happier memories -- seen in flashbacks faded like Polaroids -- keep them going. They visit a few family members, including a pair of Yo, wassup? reservation homies, but, mainly, Harjo lets the landscape steer the story. Road dust and sun-flared car windows, wind moving through yellowed prairie, empty branches clawing the shuddering sky -- these hints of autumn abound. Much of the movie consists of road-trip montage (set to native songs and indie rock). The mood is melancholy, but not quite regretful. I finally feel like Im figuring it out, says Frankie. And, damn, Im out the door. Its not a complaint or epiphany, just another observation as the miles click past.
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