“Frybread Face and Me,” from Native filmmaker Billy Luther, features personal memories and a mostly Navajo cast
Frybread Face and Me is a coming-of-age story set in 1990. An adolescent Navajo boy growing up in San Diego spends a summer with his grandmother on the Navajo Nation.
According to Director Billy Luther, the cast was all Navajo, save one member, who is an Alaska Native. He also hired Navajo crew members.
“We didn't have to try to get it right. We got it right because we live this, and this was our world,” said Luther.
“I just wanted to cast people who understand this Navajo world. I wanted most of these people to speak Navajo. I just don't see it being any other way. I think if I were working with a non-Native crew, I would have had to tell them how to do it, what colors, and what things go on the wall,” said Luther.
The film is semi-autobiographical. The protagonist is based mainly on Luther’s life as a Native American child in Southern California.
“Growing up in San Diego was a pretty crazy but fun experience,” said Luther. “People thought I was Vietnamese, Filipino, and Latino. And nobody knew Native Americans living in the city. I was like a chameleon living in California.”
The film explores the different sides of Luther’s life and identity.
“I just tell the story that is true to me. Growing up off the reservation, as some would say, an urban Indian, and also being three tribes. Navajo, Hopi, and Laguna Pueblo are very different from each other. My perspective, my outlook, and my way of life are unique. But I think that's true for a majority of Native storytellers, filmmakers, writers. Diving into that truth is going to be authentic,” said Luther.
This story is part of Voices From the Edge of the Colorado Plateau. Voices is a reporting collaboration between KSUT Public Radio and KSJD Community Radio. It seeks to cover underrepresented communities in the Four Corners. The multi-year project will cover Native, Indigenous, Latino/Latina, and other communities across southwest Colorado.