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Cast:Chris Eyre, Eric Schweig, Graham Greene, Gary Farmer

Director Chris Eyre (Smoke Signals) explores the painful legacy of the first Americans in this subdued family drama. Set on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, under the ever-present gaze of Mt. Rushmore's carved heads, Skins follows the day-to-day struggles of two brothers: Rudy Yellow Lodge (Eric Schweig), a reservation cop, and Mogie (Graham Greene), his alcoholic older brother. The film works best as a character study of Mogie, whose chronic drinking is shown unflinchingly, without diminishing his essential dignity. Credit here goes to Greene, who gives perhaps the finest performance of his career. He compassionately probes the anger and pride underlying Mogie's debilitating addiction. Schweig's Rudy is the straight arrow of the family, yet he too has a dark obsession that will ultimately lead to tragic consequences. While injustice at the hands of the white man is a theme in Skins, it serves primarily as a historical backdrop, most poignantly when Mogie recounts the story of the historic massacre at Wounded Knee. The film's focus, though, is on the present day, showing how Indians with wounded souls turn against their own people and against themselves. While Skins proposes no quick fixes to the suffering it portrays, it is imbued with a sense of hope that emerges from the depths of American Indian spirituality and from small acts of contemporary rebellion. The result is a small film with a big heart and a powerful social conscience. Ed Hulse