The Oscar-nominated Native American star will be rolling out a new film later this year.
Great news for admirers of Native American star and Academy Award nominee Lily Gladstone: You’ll be seeing more of her soon in Fancy Dance, a contemporary drama that premiered to critical acclaim at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Apple Original Films — the same outfit behind Killers of the Flower Moon — has obtained global distribution rights to the movie, which has Gladstone leading a cast that also includes Isabel Deroy-Olson (pictured above with Gladstone), Shea Whigham (Lawmen: Bass Reeves), Ryan Begay (Dark Winds), Crystle Lightning (Diggstown) and Audrey Wasilewski (Alice’s Wonderland Bakery).
What’s it all about? According to Apple:
“Since her sister’s disappearance, Jax (Gladstone) has cared for her niece, Roki (Deroy-Olson), by scraping by on the Seneca-Cayuga reservation in Oklahoma. Every spare minute goes into finding her missing sister while also helping Roki prepare for an upcoming powwow. At the risk of losing custody to Jax’s father, Frank (Whigham), the pair hit the road and scour the backcountry to track down Roki’s mother in time for the powwow. What begins as a search gradually turns into a far deeper investigation into the complexities and contradictions of Indigenous women moving through a colonized world at the mercy of a failed justice system.”
Fancy Dance marks the feature directorial debut for Erica Tremblay, who wrote and directed episodes of Reservation Dogs, and co-wrote and produced this movie. “Our film… has found the perfect home with Apple,” Tremblay said in a prepared statement, “and I am thrilled to share this beautiful story of two Seneca-Cayuga women with a global audience. As a Native American filmmaker, seeing my community included in the rich tapestry of cinema is a dream come true.”
When Fancy Dance was shown at Sundance, Justin Lowe of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “Cloaking a family drama in crime-film conventions, the plot of Native American filmmaker Erica Tremblay’s exceptional directorial debut concerns a young woman’s disappearance from an Oklahoma reservation and her family’s urgent attempts to locate her. At the same time, Fancy Dance presents a broader narrative that emphasizes the connections that sustain families, communities and tribal nations, even when confronted with a legacy of disenfranchisement. Tremblay’s film validates the varied expressions of that experience with an affirming account of resilience and hope that sparkles with authentic performances, sensitive scripting and a genuine sense of place that resonate well after the final credits roll.”
Tomris Laffly of Harper’s Bazaar added: “Both a shrewd familial drama and a slow-burning road film with the cinematic taste of a crime-thriller, Native American filmmaker Erica Tremblay’s bold and confident debut Fancy Dance immediately cements her as a brand-new Debra Granik or Taylor Sheridan, with an assured voice entirely her own. Led by the always great Lily Gladstone in career-best form and the relative newcomer Isabel Deroy-Olson in a startlingly nuanced performance, Tremblay’s refined film reflects on the hardships and violence that Indigenous communities face, and the reserves of perseverance and cultural pride they hold onto as a form of resistance. Resolute, heart-wrenching and ultimately affectionate, Fancy Dance wisely reaches truths both historical and contemporary through a present-day study of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) epidemic.”
When Gladstone accepted the Performance Award for Killers of the Flower Moon at the IndieWire Honors last December, she used her speech to also promote Fancy Dance — which, at the time, had not yet acquired distribution.
While grateful for the acknowledgement of performance in Martin Scorsese’s epic drama, she referred to her performance as Jax as “the absolute highlight of my career, the best work I feel like I’ve ever done, the most important story, elevating the awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women, missing and murdered sisters, working with the greatest, most visionary, most committed director of my life, working with somebody who I love very dearly and had the best chemistry I’ve had with somebody onscreen. The greatest love story that I’ve ever told in my career. This performance is in a film that currently has no distribution. You all thought I was talking about the other movie, didn’t you?
“I want to highlight my Fancy Dance girls,” Gladstone added, celebrating her guests at the event, co-star Isabel Deroy-Olson and director Erica Tremblay.
Fancy Dance will premiere in theaters and on Apple TV+ at a not-yet-announced date later in 2024.