Skip to main content
The Independent Critic

Jeremiah Bitsui, Carmen Moore, Morningstar Angeline Wilson, Shauna Baker, Kiowa Gordon, Elizabeth Frances, Luis Bordonad
Sydney Freeland
92 Mins.
Indion Entertainment


 "Drunktown's Finest" Opens at New York's Quad Cinema on Feb. 20th 

After a successful festival run that included an official selection and premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, a win for Best Narrative Feature at Indy's own Heartland Film Festival, multiple wins at the American Indian Film Festival and more, Sydney Freeland's Drunktown's Finest is coming to theaters this season beginning on February 20th when it opens in New York City at the Quad Cinema to be followed in subsequent weeks in select markets.

Drunktown's Finest is the coming-of-age story of three young Native Americans - a college-bound Christian girl raised by white parents (Morningstar Angeline Wilson), a rebellious and lost father-to-be (Jeremiah Bitsui), and a gorgeous yet promiscuous transsexual (Carmen Moore) - as they struggle to escape the hardships of life on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico.

The film begins with a voiceover from Nizhoni (Wilson) as she quietly acknowledges "They say this land isn't a place to live, it's a place to leave, so why do people stay?" Indeed, this question and the theme that it enfolds is at the heart of writer/director Freeland's culturally insightful and resonant Drunktown's Finest. While the film occasionally dips into melodrama that doesn't quite feel as authentic as the rest of the film, for anyone familiar with the world in which these three have been raised this will be a film that will leave quite the impact.

Without knowing a thing about Freeland's background, it's hard not to wonder about her history with this world as she has so finely tuned the film's dialogue, design, and atmosphere. From the sounds of the Wingate Valley Boys and "Beggar to a King" to the respectful and authentic portrait of alcoholism, hopelessness, violence, and struggle with cultural identity that is so often a companion to life on the reservation, Freeland has crafted a film that doesn't necessarily blow you away yet lingers in your psyche' for quite some time after watching it.

The film was workshopped at the Sundance Institute and Robert Redford himself serves as executive producer, but it's really Freeland's ability to weave together a fine trio of performances from Wilson, Bitsui, and Moore into a cohesive unit that makes Drunktown's Finest such a memorable film. Bitsui, with a bit more of an acting background, is given the most to do here and takes full advantage of it. Wilson and Moore, both relative newcomers, are occasionally a tad hit-and-miss in the film's more dramatic moments, but for the most part their performances companion the film's quiet, understated tone quite nicely.

For more information on Drunktown's Finest, visit the film's website and watch for it at a theater near you.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic