AFI Movie Club: DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST – American Film Institute
Drunktown's Finest Film Still - MorningStar Angeline, Jeremiah Bitsui and Carmen Moore



Set on a Navajo reservation, DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST, directed by Sydney Freeland, follows the intertwined lives of three young Native Americans – a soon-to-be father who is about to start basic training, an adopted daughter of Christian missionaries and a transgender beauty pageant contestant. 

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Watch Chris Eyre announce the film:

Watch this AFI exclusive “Behind the Scene” with Jeremiah Bitsui on his film DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST:

Movie Trivia about TODAY’S FILM

DID YOU KNOW? Director Sydney Freeland is a transgender filmmaker of Native American descent. She was born and raised on a Navajo reservation in the Southwestern United States and DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST was her debut feature.

DID YOU KNOW? The accomplishments of director Sydney Freeland, a mainstay in the New Mexico filmmaking scene, include the Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellowship, a Sundance Institute Directing Fellowship in 2010 and a 2009 Sundance Institute Native American Lab Fellowship. One of Freeland’s screenwriting advisors at the Sundance Lab was Joan Tewkesbury who wrote NASHVILLE.

DID YOU KNOW? Carmen Moore, who plays Felixia, is both transgender and a member of the Navajo Nation. Director Sydney Freeland said that it was important for her to cast a transgender actress in the role and that Moore “brought a depth and authenticity to the character that very few people would have been able to.”

DID YOU KNOW? Sydney took nine years to develop DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST from concept to shooting script to digital master.

DID YOU KNOW? The title was inspired by an episode of 20/20 in which Sydney Freeland’s hometown of Gallup was referred to as “Drunktown, U.S.A.” Freeland named the film DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST to flip this harmful Native American stereotype on its head and restore dignity to its characters.

DID YOU KNOW? The multiple storylines in DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST were influenced by Alejandro González Iñárritu’s AMORES PERROS. Sydney Freeland has said that, after seeing AMORES PERROS for the first time, she was inspired to translate that intersecting format to her characters in Gallup, New Mexico.

DID YOU KNOW? Although the reservation Freeland grew up in was fairly conservative, the idea that the grandparents are accepting of their transgender granddaughter in the film has basis in Native American culture. According to Freeland, “The grandma and grandpa characters represent the more traditional aspects of Navajo culture. And one of those aspects includes the concept of 3rd and 4th genders.”

DID YOU KNOW? Oscar®-winning filmmaker Robert Redford executive produced DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST. He spoke with director Sydney Freeland “about small Reservation towns that nobody else would even know about [and]…really had an interest in the story and its characters.”

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The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-How do you think Sydney Freeland’s own identity informed her debut feature film?

-What do you think about her creative choice to cast a transgender actor to play the role of Felixia?

-Why do you think the grandparents in the film are accepting of their granddaughter?

-How did the film expand the tradition perception and challenge stereotypes of Native Americans and Native reservations?

-Why are there still so few films featuring Native stories? How we can do more to support underrepresented and marginalized communities like this?

-How does the film add to the cultural conversation about the transgender experience? Have we made strides in terms of transgender representation onscreen?

-The Sundance Institute shepherded this project from development through production with founder Robert Redford executive producing. Why do you think they invested so much in this story?

-How would you rate DRUNKTOWN’S FINEST?

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AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

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