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Decolonizing comedy

Blackhorse Lowe widens the lens on Native life

Blackhorse Lowe’s third feature FUKRY will make its Oklahoma debut Nov. 7 at Circle Cinema.

Destiny Jade Green

Navajo filmmaker Blackhorse Lowe depicts Native experiences unlike any director working today. His idiosyncratic style may be the result of not taking himself too seriously, an occasional trap for some Indigenous storytellers, as he crafts films that are distinctly his own. Armed with surrealist wit and a down-to-earth sensibility, Lowe is a jack-of-all-trades filmmaker who writes, directs, produces, photographs, edits and acts in all his movies.

Lowe’s two most recent full-length films strongly establish him as a leading director of Native comedies in a post-Sherman Alexie landscape. Chasing the Light (2016) is a dark comedy following a character played by Lowe on a suicidal Ulyssean journey around Albuquerque. FUKRY, his third and most recent feature, had its world premiere at the imagineNATIVE film festival on Oct. 25 and will make its Oklahoma debut Nov. 7 at Circle Cinema. 

A color-saturated, screwball-inspired comedy also set in ABQ, FUKRY focuses on an off-beat group of Natives, relieved of the burden of acting as cultural representatives. “With FUKRY we were going for all-out ridiculousness and just no realism, practically,” Lowe said. “It is Native representation, but I’m trying to take away the shackles of what they used to be, where you always had to be forthright in some sort of ‘wise, sage person’ always handing out wisdoms, with the eagle calls and the usual tribal issues.”

Early projects like 5th World (2005) and Shimásáni (2009) established Lowe as a culturally significant filmmaker with a sharp sense of history. However, his recent comedies scramble the expectations of audiences looking for “traditional” representations of Native life. He shows us that Indigenous people also appreciate noise music, surf and punk rock, skateboarding and miming. Poking fun at art-world types and disingenuous white allies, FUKRY widens the lens on Native life to a degree not seen in film. 

“I know artists and drug dealers and musicians and fuck-ups that are also Natives, so those people I find more interesting. Those are more real to me, so that’s what I make movies about,” Lowe said. “We’re not going overboard saying, ‘We’re Native’ all the time. We just happen to be … but we also happen to really like our art works and our practices. I feel it’s important to show other brown people and brown faces and other experiences out there.” 

Lowe moved to Tulsa after receiving a Tulsa Artist Fellowship in 2019, joining a cohort including two long-time Native collaborators: director Sterlin Harjo, and inter-disciplinary artist and composer Nathan Young. Lowe finished FUKRY in his TAF studio space with a special project grant. He also co-hosts Cinetelechy, a Native, Latinx and queer film series, with TAF curatorial fellows Atomic Culture.

“I think men and women regardless of your nation or your upbringing or what nationality you identify with—it’s just all a mess, regardless,” Lowe said with a laugh. “Emotions and love and everything else in between: It all just either works, or it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter what color you are. You either love or hate or resent, or go through all these different ups and downs of it, but no one is safe from love.”

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Native Spotlight: FUKRY
Circle Cinema, 10 S. Lewis Ave. 
Thursday, Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m. | $10 

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