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Lily Gladstone's new film, 'Fancy Dance,' brings awareness to MMIP issues

Fancy Dance
Posted at 8:26 PM, Jun 28, 2024

BILLINGS — Montana’s own Lily Gladstone’s new movie "Fancy Dance" focuses on the problem of missing and murdered Indigenous people, MMIP, a crisis that hits close to home for many in the state.

After being the first Native American to win a Golden Globe and be nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar earlier this year for their work in "Killers of the Flower Moon," the star has become a hero for many in Montana.

Lily Gladstone
Lily Gladstone plays Jax Goodiron in "Fancy Dance."

“Lily Gladstone, how can you not love her? She’s just a darling,” said Charlene Sleeper, an MMIP advocate.

In Fancy Dance, the Browning native plays Jax Goodiron, who is searching for her missing sister, Tawi, in Oklahoma.

“It's a very real thing that you would be hard-pressed to find any Indigenous life is not touched by this epidemic or an Indigenous life that's not touched by this continued legacy of removing Indian kids from Indian families,” said Gladstone earlier this week in an interview with MTN.

The film, directed by Erica Tremblay, is putting center stage on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

“It's made by natives and native actors, and they know the real stories behind MMIW, and like the real people, all of us know somebody that went missing,” said Tracie Garfield, the communications director for Western Native Voice.

Tracie Garfield
Tracie Garfield is the communications director for Western Native Voice and helps show films in the community that showcase native stories.

According to Montana Department of Justice, in the state last year 28% of reported missing people were Indigenous.

Garfield, who also assists in showing films in the community that showcase native voices, said this film will likely invoke emotions familiar to many in the indigenous community.

"The Native population goes through this stuff every day, and so not that we become hardened to it, but it's like something that we see so much, so over and over and over, and it's almost, we become desensitized to it. Then when you do watch this, we're re-traumatized about what we do know," said Garfield. "It's going to be hard to watch, I'm sure."

In the film, Jax then takes on the care of her sister’s daughter Roki, something Sleeper said is all too common and often overlooked in the community.

“Especially when it comes to women, they leave behind children when they go missing, which isn't something that we often talk about. So those children are often essentially orphaned when their parent goes missing, and then there's a lack of resources to support them," said Sleeper.

Charlene Sleeper
Charlene Sleeper is an advocate for MMIP and hopes the film will help bring more awareness to the issue.

For many, media can be their first exposure to serious topics, and these advocates hope that this film can help educate many about the MMIP crisis.

"As far as films in general, they're a good access point for people to not only be made aware of certain social issues, but to really engage it in a way that can continue to dialogue beyond the film itself,” said Sleeper.

"Happy Dance" serves as a step in the right direction for Indigenous representation through a star like Gladstone and brings awareness to a big issue.

“I think Lily is such a strong advocate," said Garfield. "People sit up and listen when she talks, and I'm really excited that she has such a strong voice on everything that's important to our Native communities.”

The Art House Cinema and Pub will be showing the Apple TV film starting June 28 and through next week.

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