By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on June 17, 2023)
In 1998, a low-budget indie dramedy called Smoke Signals became a hit with critics and festival audiences. It was also groundbreaking, in the sense of being the first film to be written (Sherman Alexie), directed (Chris Eyre) and co-produced by Native Americans. The film was a career booster for several Native-American actors like Gary Farmer, Tantoo Cardinal and Adam Beach. For other cast members, not so much …like 11-year-old Cody Lightning, who played Adam Beach’s character “Victor” as a youngster.
Fast-forward 25 years. Cody Lightning plays (wait for it) Cody Lightning in his heightened reality dramedy (co-written with Samuel Miller), which reveals Cody has hit the bottom (and the bottle). Divorced and chronically depressed, his portfolio has dwindled to adult film gigs and half-finished screenplays about zombie priests. When his best friend and creative partner Kate (Hannah Cheesman) organizes an intervention, Cody has an epiphany…not to stop drinking, but to make a Smoke Signals sequel. All he needs now is a script, some of the original cast, and (most importantly) financial backing.
Reminiscent of Alexandre Rockwell’s In the Soup, Hey, Viktor! is an alternately hilarious and brutally honest dive into the trenches of D.I.Y. film-making (I was also reminded of Robert Townshend’s Hollywood Shuffle, in the way Lightning weaves issues like ethnic stereotyping and reclamation of cultural identity into the narrative). The cast includes Smoke Signals alums Simon Baker, Adam Beach, Gary Farmer, and Irene Bedard.