Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 103 minutes
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Alienation is a concept only the morally and spiritually vacant are unfamiliar with. It is a place where you become your own enemy due to a lack of like-minded souls around you. It’s a harsh swamp where the best and worst in a person is sucked out like snake venom. “The Business of Fancy Dancing” is that swamp where the alienated live, love and languish.
Seymour Polatkin (an incredible Evan Adams) is a handsome Native American (or Indian, or American Indian, or Aboriginal) poet who is gay. He found success as a writer through a mixture of white guilt, whoring out his heritage, and stealing the experiences of those he grew up with. His friends, the violin playing Mouse (Swil Kanim) and the brilliant alcoholic Aristotle Joseph (Gene Tagaban), know this, and they aren’t exactly happy about it. In their eyes, Seymour had his own version of Manifest Destiny, and once again the tribe fell victim to it. The problem is, Seymour knows they are right, and he doesn’t seem to care. The only person who tries to defend him and his actions is his old girlfriend (from before he knew he was gay) Agnes (Michelle St. John).
Agnes is a Native American who returns to the rez to teach after graduating college. She’s Aristotle’s lover, but spends every day thinking about what might have been if she and Seymour had stayed together. She is the only person in the tribe to stick up for Seymour when he returns to the rez to attend Mouse’s funeral, and that’s only because she’s the opposite of Seymour in almost every respect.
This film makes it abundantly clear what happens to those who leave whatever culture they are part of, whether it be an ethnic group, a sexual group or an educational sphere. Their self-imposed (and sometimes forced) exile produces guilt, rage and self-loathing, especially when they realize how much they owe to that which they despise. It could be any group — black, white, gay, straight, Jew, Krishna — but “The Business of Fancy Dancing” concentrates on the Native Americans because they truly are the strangers in a strange land now. Segregated by force, accepted through guilt, and ignored for the same reason, these people know better than any others just how strong a sense of unity can be … and how it can be used to destroy you.
Eventually there comes a time when the status quo doesn’t even have to lift a finger to ensure a people’s destruction. After all, if that’s all you know, you’ll eventually do it yourself to yourself. And you’ll think you’re a better person for it. That is the warning of this film, which has a strong dream-like quality to it that sometimes obscures the truth and leaves threads dangling, and that is why it needs to be watched.
Posted on June 23, 2002 in Reviews by Doug Brunell
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