Private Project

Frybread Face & Me

It’s 1990. Benny Lovell is a 12-year-old 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. Grandma Lorraine doesn’t speak a word of English, and with no running water, plumbing, or electricity, Benny must adapt to life on the rez with the help of his free-spirited Aunt Lucy and the opposition of his jaded Uncle Marvin. To Benny, things can’t get any worse, and he is determined to find a way home. Shortly after Benny arrives at the ranch, things take an unexpected turn when his cousin Fry— AKA Frybread Face, a pudgy 10-year-old vagabond—is dropped off, armed with only a garbage bag of clothes. Fry is a 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 traditions. Not only does Fry know her native tongue, but she also seems to know everyone’s business.

Fry and the family teach Benny the Navajo way: He is introduced to the Rodeo, the hustle of the trading post, and the rituals of a baby’s first laugh ceremony. When Uncle Marvin is injured in a riding accident, Benny and Fry pick up his work on the ranch. This summer changes the lives of these two kids—the reservation girl and the city boy. Despite their differences, they unite to search for family, love, and missing

FRYBREAD FACE AND ME throws away stereotypes of Native Americans life and revels in the joys of being Indian. It takes audiences on a journey into a world that hasn’t been seen before: A hilarious look into a summer of “firsts” both immersive and heartfelt told through the eyes of two young Native kids.

  • Billy Luther
    Miss Navajo, Grab
  • Billy Luther
    Miss Navajo, Grab
  • Chad Burris
    Goodnight Irene, Four Sheets to the Wind, Barking Water
  • Taika Waititi
    Executive Producer
  • Kier Tallman
    Key Cast
  • Charley Hogan
    Key Cast
    "Frybread Face"
  • Martin Sensmeier
    Key Cast
  • Kahara Hodges
    Key Cast
    "Aunt Lucy"
  • Sarah Natani
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 23 minutes
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English, Navajo
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • South by Southwest Film Festival
    Austin, Texas
    United States
    March 11, 2023
    World Premiere
    Narrative Spotlight
  • Toronto International Film Festival
    September 11, 2023
    Canadian Premiere
    Discovery Spotlight
Distribution Information
  • Photon Films
    Country: Canada
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Billy Luther

Billy Luther (Navajo, Hopi and Laguna Pueblo) is the director/producer of the award-winning documentary Miss Navajo, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and aired nationally on PBS’ Independent Lens that same year. His second documentary feature, Grab, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and aired nationally on Public Television. His short documentary film, Red Lake, had its world premiere at the 2016 LA Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary Short at the 2016 International Documentary Association Awards. In 2018, he launched his web series alter-NATIVE for PBS’ IndieLens StoryCast. He is a writer and director for the AMC series Dark Winds

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Director Statement

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. But I never saw contemporary Indians on TV or in film. I’ve worked in documentaries for almost fifteen years. I love exploring the lives of my indigenous subjects— whether fashion designers, hip-hop artists, gay politicians, or chefs. The images that young people see of themselves and of their communities have great impact on them. This is why I tell stories of strong, resilient modern Native Americans: Because I didn’t see these people on screen growing up.