Benny is a bit of an outsider; he plays with dolls (but really they’re action figures!) and he has this obsessive love for Fleetwood Mac. His uncle bullies him and he lives amongst an oppression that demands boys to be hyper-masculine. Can you talk about that aspect of the film?
My experience with that was I wanted Barbies so bad as a kid, but my parents would only buy me GI Joe dolls or action figures. So, I would happily take them outside and play soap opera with them. All my GI Joes were lined up and they were sleeping with each other. It was my state of mind: I would watch nighttime and daytime soap operas. I would just create, and that’s where my storytelling was born. I liked soft, gentle things.
When I would go out to the Rez, my uncles were all bull riders and ranchers and very masculine guys. It just wasn’t me. It was always like, “You’re not a cowboy,” but I never wanted to be a cowboy, you know? The thing about that, too, is my grandmother never judged. She was never like, “Oh, you have to be this way or that way,” and it was always this love that she had.
The film’s really about a young boy discovering himself, and it must have been a challenge finding the young actors. Can you talk about the casting process?
I was casting during peak Covid, so a lot of my casting was through Zoom. It was tough, but we worked with an amazing casting director, Angelique Midthunder. She cast a lot of Native films, but at that time, it was more recent with Reservation Dogs, so she had already had her arms out there searching for kids. When we went with her, it was perfect timing.
We cast Charley Hogan as Frybread Face; she was the first one we cast. Keir came a little later. I liked him because he was so shy and so vulnerable. He was just a little kid that brought it to the audition.