Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...Chris Eyre
Chris Eyre's eyes light up as he recalls bookmobile visits to his hometown of Klamath Falls, Ore., when he was a kid. Which explains, in part, why Eyre, the country's preeminent Native American director, chose a uniquely mobile method to launch Skins, his latest film. After persuading the movie's distributor to spiff up an out-of-commission 100-seat traveling cinema, Eyre, 33, embarked on a cross-country tour and rolled his feature film to 11 destinations this summer, including the Pine Ridge, S.Dak., reservation where he shot his story about a Lakota man's struggle with alcoholism. "As Indians we don't recognize ourselves in the movies from Hollywood," says Eyre. "My purpose is to show things as they really are and open a discussion among Indian people."
Eyre first earned praise with his debut, Smoke Signals, which was a Sundance hit in '98. "He believes that even the most specific stories about race and culture can be enjoyed by people of different backgrounds," says Skins producer Jon Kilik. Adopted by a white couple, Eyre didn't meet his Cheyenne birth mother until he was 26. Now living in L.A. and in the Black Hills of South Dakota with his Lakota companion of six years, Lori Pourier, 39, and their 3-year-old daughter Shahiyela, he is learning the Cheyenne language and finds himself more connected to his heritage than ever. "I have an unlimited canvas," says Eyre, who is currently working on two more Indian-themed projects. "Native Americans are the most complex group of Americans there are."
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