Powwow Highway (1989)

R | 91 mins | Adventure, Comedy | 17 March 1989

Director:

Jonathan Wacks

Producer:

Jan Wieringa

Cinematographer:

Toyomichi Kurita

Production Designer:

Cynthia Sowder

Production Companies:

Handmade Films, Powwow Productions
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HISTORY

The Summary for this unveiled film was based on reviews in the 17 Mar 1989 LAT, 24 Mar 1989 NYT, and Aug 1989 issue of Elle.
       According to production files at the AMPAS library, associate producer Carl Kraines read David Seals’s self-published 1979 novel, Powow Highway, and brought it to the attention of screenwriters Janet Heaney and Jean Stawarz. A 29 May 1989 LAT news item reported that Seals sold the film rights in 1985 for $10,000.
       When the screenplay was finished, Kraines approached director Jonathan Wacks, who had co-produced the cult hit, Repo Man (1984, see entry).
       A 12 Aug 1987 HR news brief reported that principal photography was underway in Sheridan, WY. Filming took place on Native American reservations throughout WY, MT, SD, and Santa Fe, NM. The filmmakers received permission to shoot for ten days at the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, MT, where members of the tribal Council Chambers worked as extras to give the scene authenticity. The crew also used the reservation’s notorious Jimtown Bar as a location. The film’s budget was $3 million.
       According to a 25 Aug 1988 HR news item, Powwow Highway premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival on 26 Aug 1988. The 29 Mar 1989 LAT stated that the film won awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor at the 1988 American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, CA.
       Warner Bros. decided not to release the film in Los Angeles, CA, until it was screened elsewhere, because executives believed it was “too ... More Less

The Summary for this unveiled film was based on reviews in the 17 Mar 1989 LAT, 24 Mar 1989 NYT, and Aug 1989 issue of Elle.
       According to production files at the AMPAS library, associate producer Carl Kraines read David Seals’s self-published 1979 novel, Powow Highway, and brought it to the attention of screenwriters Janet Heaney and Jean Stawarz. A 29 May 1989 LAT news item reported that Seals sold the film rights in 1985 for $10,000.
       When the screenplay was finished, Kraines approached director Jonathan Wacks, who had co-produced the cult hit, Repo Man (1984, see entry).
       A 12 Aug 1987 HR news brief reported that principal photography was underway in Sheridan, WY. Filming took place on Native American reservations throughout WY, MT, SD, and Santa Fe, NM. The filmmakers received permission to shoot for ten days at the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Lame Deer, MT, where members of the tribal Council Chambers worked as extras to give the scene authenticity. The crew also used the reservation’s notorious Jimtown Bar as a location. The film’s budget was $3 million.
       According to a 25 Aug 1988 HR news item, Powwow Highway premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival on 26 Aug 1988. The 29 Mar 1989 LAT stated that the film won awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor at the 1988 American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco, CA.
       Warner Bros. decided not to release the film in Los Angeles, CA, until it was screened elsewhere, because executives believed it was “too small” for the market, according to the 27 Jan 1989 LAHExam. It was released 24 Feb 1989 in Seattle, WA. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Elle
Aug 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 1988.
---
Hollywood Reporter
27 Jan 1989
p. 20, 24.
LAHExam
27 Jan 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Mar 1989
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
29 May 1989.
---
New York Times
24 Mar 1989
p. 11.
Variety
31 Aug 1988
p. 38.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Based on the novel by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op (B)
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
Art dept prod asst
Art dept prod asst
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Video ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dresser
Lead scenic artist
COSTUMES
Costume des
Costume supv
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus supv
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus performed by
Mus programming
Mus coord
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv sd
Sd ed
Sd ed
Foley walker
Foley walker
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff crew
Spec eff crew
Title des
Title des
Titles/Opticals
MAKEUP
Key makeup and hair
Makeup & hair
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod coord
Loc mgr
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Casting (LA associate)
Casting (location)
Casting (Santa Fe)
Tech consultant
Animal wrangler
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stunts
Stand-in
Stand-in
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Powwow Highway by David Seals (New York, 1990).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
17 March 1989
Premiere Information:
Seattle, WA showing: 24 February 1989
Los Angeles opening: 17 March 1989
New York opening: 24 March 1989
Production Date:
Began April 1987
Copyright Claimant:
HandMade Films (1985) Partnership
Copyright Date:
17 November 1988
Copyright Number:
PA388005
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
91
Length(in feet):
8,161
MPAA Rating:
R
Countries:
United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Buddy Red Bow, a Vietnam veteran and Native American activist, is battling land developers in Deer, Montana. He learns that his sister, Bonnie Red Bow, and her two young daughters, have been falsely arrested for marijuana possession and are being held in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Buddy embezzles money from the tribe and, since he has no car, enlists the help of his old high school friend, Philbert Bono. The six-foot tall, 280-pound Cheyenne is studying Indian spiritualism in hopes of becoming a warrior. Philbert agrees to go, but only if they can stop at various holy sites along the way. Philbert trades marijuana and alcohol for a rusted-out 1964 Buick Wildcat, which he dubs “Protector.” When they buy a new radio that initially does not work, Buddy smashes the electronics store window. During their weeklong journey across the plains, Buddy’s rage about discrimination against Native Americans is tempered by Philbert’s gentle nature and desire to recover his ancestral past. At the sacred Black Hills in South Dakota, Philbert leaves a Hershey’s chocolate bar as an offering to the spirits of his ancestors. In Santa Fe, they meet “Rabbit” Layton, who helps free Bonnie and her daughters from jail. They flee back to the reservation in ... +


Buddy Red Bow, a Vietnam veteran and Native American activist, is battling land developers in Deer, Montana. He learns that his sister, Bonnie Red Bow, and her two young daughters, have been falsely arrested for marijuana possession and are being held in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Buddy embezzles money from the tribe and, since he has no car, enlists the help of his old high school friend, Philbert Bono. The six-foot tall, 280-pound Cheyenne is studying Indian spiritualism in hopes of becoming a warrior. Philbert agrees to go, but only if they can stop at various holy sites along the way. Philbert trades marijuana and alcohol for a rusted-out 1964 Buick Wildcat, which he dubs “Protector.” When they buy a new radio that initially does not work, Buddy smashes the electronics store window. During their weeklong journey across the plains, Buddy’s rage about discrimination against Native Americans is tempered by Philbert’s gentle nature and desire to recover his ancestral past. At the sacred Black Hills in South Dakota, Philbert leaves a Hershey’s chocolate bar as an offering to the spirits of his ancestors. In Santa Fe, they meet “Rabbit” Layton, who helps free Bonnie and her daughters from jail. They flee back to the reservation in Montana. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.