‘Frybread Face and Me’ directed by Native American filmmaker Billy Luther, premieres at SXSW

The film is executive-produced by Taika Waititi and follows the story of two adolescent Navajo cousins living in separate worlds

Billy Luther (Navajo, Hopi and Laguna Pueblo) is an award-winning director and producer known for his documentaries Miss Navajo and Grab as well as other successful projects. 

Luther is celebrating his newest film, Frybread Face and Me, which is premiering at the 2023 SXSW film festival. The film was written and directed by Luther and was executive-produced by Taika Waititi. Chad Burris (Chickasaw), the founder of Indion Group, is also a producer.

Frybread Face and Me follows the story of Benny Lovell, a 12-year-old Navajo boy who grew up in San Diego and loves listening to Fleetwood Mac. When his parents take him to his Grandmother Lorraine’s sheep ranch on the rez in Arizona, he meets up with his cousin Dawn, who is called Frybread Face by her family. 

In his director’s statement, Luther described his reasons for making the film as well as realizing an important moment when creating the film.

“I grew up off the reservation in various towns along Route 66. My Navajo, Hopi, and Laguna Pueblo family would haul our TV set through each move. That TV was everything to me – the four channels and our VCR. The characters on screen became my family: The Golden Girls, The Last Picture Show, and On Golden Pond. I soon came to realize that my community was also full of colorful characters and humor, but I never saw them reflected on my television.”

Luther expressed that because he had grown up without the representation of Native American characters in the programs he enjoyed, he knew that at an early age, he wanted to tell stories through film. He wanted to tell a story other Native kids could relate to.

“I knew I wanted to tell the story of two cousins spending a summer together, as many kids on the rez can identify with this experience. It took me about six years from writing it to where we are now, about to premiere at SXSW.”

“As I was shooting this film, there was a pivotal moment that struck me. It was the family scene in the trailer living room. There were eight Native actors on set. I paused. And then it hit me – I was making a film with an all-Native cast. We were all acting just like our aunties and uncles and people we knew from the reservation. I knew right then we were making something special. While this is a story that will resonate deeply with the Native community, it’s a film for all audiences who will reflect on their own experiences growing up, their relationships with family, and those who helped shape them into the person they’ve become. I hope that rings true with audiences, and I hope they see how amazing our actors are in it. Hopefully, it will help Natives who want to work in all fields of film, not just writing, directing or acting. We need more Native camera people on set – and Native Editors! Composers!” 

Follow the hashtag #FrybreadFaceAndMe on social media

Set photo of the cast of 'Frybread Face and Me' Image courtesy of Jesse Lynn Dell, www.jesselynndell.com
Set photo of the cast of ‘Frybread Face and Me’ Image courtesy of Jesse Lynn Dell, www.jesselynndell.com

Film Synopsis

It’s 1990. Benny is a Native American boy growing up in San Diego who plays with dolls and listens to Fleetwood Mac. Everything Benny thinks he knows about himself and his family is turned upside down when his parents force him to spend the summer at his Grandma Lorraine’s sheep ranch on the reservation in Arizona. There he meets his cousin Dawn— AKA Frybread Face, a pudgy 11-year-old vagabond, tough-as-nails tomboy. Benny has never met anyone like her, and he is equally intimidated and impressed by her knowledge of Navajo language and tradition. Benny is introduced to Navajo life on the Rez, and his unruly uncle Marvin. Together, Benny and Fry create a memorable summer.

Director: Billy Luther

Cast: Kier Tallman, Charley Hogan, Martin Sensmeier (The Magnificent Seven), Kahara Hodges, Sarah Natani

Screenwriter: Billy Luther

Executive Producers: Taika Waititi

Producers: Chad Burris

SXSW Screening Times:

  • Premiere: Saturday, March 11, 6:00 PM, Alamo Lamar B
  • Public #2:  Monday, March 13, 4:00 PM, Violet Crown Cinema 2
  • Public #3: Monday, March 13, 4:30 PM, Violet Crown Cinema 5
  • Public #4: Friday, March 17, 6:00 PM, AFS Cinema

Stay Tuned

A video interview with Frybread Face and Me director Billy Luther, Martin Sensmeier, Kahara Hodges and Charley Hogan

Screen Capture of 'Frybread Face and Me' cast members Charley Hogan, director Billy Luther and Martin Sensmeier and Kahara Hodges. Interviewed by Native Viewpoint's Vincent Schilling.
Screen Capture of ‘Frybread Face and Me’ cast members Charley Hogan, (upper left) director Billy Luther and Martin Sensmeier and Kahara Hodges. Interviewed by Native Viewpoint’s Vincent Schilling.