Powwow Highway (1989)

Gary Farmer, A Martinez, Joanelle Romero, Amanda Wyss,
Two Northern Cheyenne men take a road trip from Montana to New Mexico to bail out the sister of one of them who has been framed and arrested in Santa Fe. On the way, they begin to reconnect to their spiritual heritage.
  • 7.1 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • David Seals, Janet Heaney, Jean Stawarz, Writer:
  • Jonathan Wacks, Director:
  • Jan Wieringa, Producer:

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10 / 10

Powwow Highway is unforgettable, heartwarming, and a triumph for Gary Farmer.

I can't say enough about the sheer quality of this little film, so I won't even try. What I will say is that Gary Farmer's portrayal of Philbert was one of the sweetest characterizations I have ever seen, and he's emblazoned forever on my heart. Also outstanding was Graham Greene in a small role as a Vietnam vet suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. A Martinez, who's something of a one-trick pony, was very well suited to his role.

7 / 10

terrific

This film sank into obscurity, and it shouldn't have. An understated and subtle story of personal growth along the quest--it's a standard story, but this film tells it with stark dialogue, cinematography, and characters. Gary Farmer is absolutely convincing, disappearing into his role as the gentle giant completely. A Martinez's Buddy Red Bow is fiery, up to *here* with government treatment of American Indians and closed to sentiment or tenderness. Robbie Robertson's soundtrack is almost a character itself--it's suited to the landscape very well, and its native tones seem to reinforce the spareness of the story and the reservation.

Finding a copy will be really hard, but well worth it.

9 / 10

The Gary Farmer Show

This is an amazing movie. Gary Farmer was given a a role that allowed him to frame the entire film via his performance, and he pulls off a masterpiece. DeNiro very rarely has such luck. While it is incredibly well cast from top to bottom (A Martinez, a charmingly brazen Amanda Wyss, cameos by then-unknowns Wes Studi and the always underutilized Graham Greene, even the seedy car/stereo salesman done dually by Patrick Randal) and each performer knocks on perfection, Farmer takes this to an entirely different plateau.

Roger Ebert favorably critiqued the film by announcing Farmer's performance was "one of the most wholly convincing I've seen", which seems a subtle understatement.

You will not understand this film if you don't get Philbert, the perpetual protagonist Farmer portrays. It's too easy to identify with A Martinez' character, Buddy Red Bow, a hip-shooting realist bent on vengeance. I've been watching Martinez since The Cowboys in 72, and this performance should have given the notice A Level actors deserve.

Unfortunately, the same magic that made the film possible was it's very undoing.

Handmade Films, a pet project by Beatle George Harrison, brought this novel to film. Despite several successful titles (including Monty Python and offshoot ventures), Handmade was spiraling towards bankruptcy, and Powwow didn't perform at the box office because there was no money to push it.

Great art is most often lost.

Don't let your pony throw you. Watch Powwow Highway. Now.

10 / 10

This movie struck a chord deep inside.

This film has a lot of heart. Gary Farmer's character is one of the most likeable in recent memory. His dignity, kindness and spirituality are inspiring and endearing. Few films work so subtlely to create such an indelible, sympathetic and wholly uplifting message. Set amid the vile conditions faced by Cherokee reservation natives, the movie has much to say to all about responsibility, justice and above all, love. Can't recommend this film highly enough!

10 / 10

Pow Wow Highway cuts strait to the heart

"Pow Wow Highway" has the true spirit of independent film making as it pushes aside all the bells and whistles of Hollywood and cuts straight to the heart of the matter. And the heart of the matter in this film is a powerful narrative in the form of friendship and family. "Pow Wow Highway" takes its audience on a humble, but beautiful journey into the soul of two modern Native American friends. The director, Jonathan Wacks, entertains his audience with a simple yet strong story that never goes beyond its deeper sense of Native American spirituality. The characters portrayed by Gary Farmer and A. Martinez create a contrast in ideals and ideologies that give "Pow Wow Highway" a considerable amount of depth and impact that leaves you crying one moment and laughing the next. But it is Gary Farmer's superb performance as Phibert Bono that steals the show and gives this film its most touching and powerful performance. It is to director Jonathan Wacks credit that his camera never strays far from Gary Farmer's character. I found this film to be a bright spot that far out shines the sophistication and capitalistic endeavors of other movies from the same time period. I really believe that the recent success of the independent film movement owes a lot to movies like "Pow Wow Highway." My hat goes off to Jonathan Wack's "Pow Wow Highway" as it is a must see movie that strikes at the heart of good, solid film making.