ENG 112
Fall 2005
Paper III: Film Analysis

For your third essay, you will watch Smoke Signals (1998), the story of two Native American (Coeur d'Alene) men from Idaho who have very different memories of Arnold Joseph, who left the reservation many years before.

This may be the first time that you have looked specifically at a film as a literary text. Films contain many of the same characteristics as traditional, printed literary texts: plot, point of view, characterization, symbolism, setting, tone, and theme. In addition, film includes such audio-visual elements as lighting, set design, costuming, cinematography, and music.

Your goal for this essay is to isolate a particular aspect of Smoke Signals (a character, a scene, a literary/cinematic device) and then write an essay in which you analyze and interpret this element. You want to be sure to limit yourself to a very focused topic as this essay is rather short (see below).

As you analyze and write about film, remember that you aren't writing a review. Reviews are generally subjective: they explore an individual's response to a film and so do not require research, analysis, and so on. As a result, reviews are often both simplistic (thumbs up, thumbs down) and "clever" (employing the pun-driven or sensational turns of phrase of popular magazines). While reviews can be useful and even entertaining pieces of prose, they generally don't qualify as "academic writing."

You may want to rent (or check out from the library) the video to watch at home in order to find specific scenes and quotations.




Adam Beach


Victor Joseph

Evan Adams


Thomas Builds-the-Fire

Irene Bedard


Suzy Song

Gary Farmer


Arnold Joseph

Tantoo Cardinal


Arlene Joseph

Cody Lightning


Young Victor Joseph

Simon Baker


Young Thomas Builds-the-Fire

Monique Mojica


Grandma Builds-the-Fire

John Trudell


Randy Peone

Chief Leonard George


Lester Fallsapart (as Leonard George)

Michael Greyeyes


Junior Polatkin

Darwin Haine



Michelle St. John



Elaine Miles






Director                        Chris Eyre
Screenplay                   Sherman Alexie (based loosely on "What It Means to Say Phoenix,
                                    Arizona" from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven)



You will need to include:

√ A title that gives your readers a sense of your specific topic and argument.

√ A clear, interpretive thesis.

√ Examples from the text to support your points of analysis.

√ Three pages of text. (You need to be well onto the third page to fulfill assignment requirements.)

√ A word-processed rough draft.

√ A works cited page that includes the film. (You do not need any outside sources for this paper, but if you use them, they also need to appear on your Works Cited page.)

            Because films do not have page numbers, parenthetical citations from the film will contain only the title.

           MLA Works Cited Citations for Film:

 [Title of the Film]. Dir. [name of Director]. Perf. [names of primary performers]. [Name of studio], [year of release].

 It's a Wonderful Life. Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and Lionel Barrymore. RKO, 1946.

 DUE: Tuesday, 22 November 2005 at 1:00 (HI) and 4:00 (HF)