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Chris Eyre

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Chris Eyre
Eyre at South by Southwest in 2011
Born1968 (age 55–56)
Portland, Oregon, United States
EducationNew York University (MFA)
Occupation(s)Film director, film producer
Years active1994-present

Chris Eyre (born 1968), an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, is an American film director and producer[1] who as of 2012 is chairman of the film department at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design.

Early life and education[edit]

Chris Eyre was born in Portland, Oregon, and raised in Klamath Falls by his adoptive parents, Earl and Barbara Eyre. Despite his non-native upbringing, he is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. During his time at Klamath Union High School, from which he graduated in 1987, Eyre developed an interest in black-and-white photography, leading him to pursue further education in television production at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, Oregon.[2][3] After completing his studies there, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Media Arts from the University of Arizona in 1991. His passion for storytelling brought him to New York University Tisch School of the Arts, where he pursued a Master of Fine Arts in filmmaking from 1992 to 1995. His second-year film, Tenacity (1994), garnered attention at various film festivals, including Sundance.[4][5]



In 1998, Chris Eyre worked on two film projects. His first release was Things We Do (1998). Eyre's breakthrough came with his direction of Smoke Signals (1998), a film developed from a Sundance directing workshop and later bought by Miramar Films. Winning the Sundance Film Festival Filmmakers Trophy and the Audience Award, the film was noted for being the first nationally distributed feature film directed, written, co-produced, and prominently featuring American Indian actors. It also won "Best Film" honors at the 1998 American Indian Film Festival.[6] Eyre described Smoke Signals as a film about the universal theme of forgiveness, which he believed would resonate with audiences for years.[7][2]

Subsequent works[edit]

Following his initial success, Eyre directed several other significant films such as Skins (2002), which was shot on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and Edge of America (2003), which won a Peabody Award.[2]

Eyre's second film, Skins (2002), is the story of two brothers on the Pine Ridge Reservation, a tribal cop and a Vietnam vet battling alcohol and emotional problems. He said at a screening: "The only thing you get in making period pieces about Indians is guilt. I'm interested in doing what non-Indian filmmakers can't do, which is portray contemporary Indians."[5]

Eyre's Edge of America (2004) was the 2004 Sundance Film Festival "opening night" film. Edge of America (2004) is loosely based on the true story of a black English teacher who goes to the Three Nations Reservation to teach, but ends up coaching the very underachieving girls basketball team and takes them all the way to the state finals. In the process, he learns as much about their culture and race relations in America as they learn about winning and self-esteem. On January 29, 2006, Eyre won the Directors Guild of America's award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Children's Programs for Edge of America, becoming the first Native American to win the award.[8][9]

Eyre's short film, A Thousand Roads (2005), the "signature film" for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, opened in Washington, D.C., on April 10, 2005, for an unlimited and exclusive engagement. It is a contemporary film, following four American Indians in different locations, as they each confront everyday events.[10]

In 2011, Eyre finished Hide Away (2011), collaborating with Salem writer Peter Vanderwal. His work, deeply reflective of his rural, Klamath Falls upbringing, often explores themes beyond Native American stories, focusing on universal human experiences and the spirit of living vicariously through varied characters. The film's cast includes Josh Lucas and Ayelet Zurer.[11]

Other notable projects include The Doe Boy (2001) and Freedom Riders (2009).

Television and later projects[edit]

Eyre has also made contributions to television, directing episodes of popular series like Law & Order and Friday Night Lights.[9]

Eyre has also directed two episodes of the famed PBS series Mystery!; A Thief of Time (2004) and Skinwalkers (2002) starring Adam Beach as Jim Chee, and Wes Studi as Joe Leaphorn. Both were executive produced by Robert Redford and based on the best selling Tony Hillerman novels. Skinwalkers (2002) is a mystery involving skinwalkers or shape-shifters, and the murders of several medicine men. A Thief of Time (2004) is a who-dunnit that intertwines very competitive anthropologists, possible artifact thievery, a missing professor, and the legend of the Anasazi.[2][4]

In 2008 Eyre directed the first three episodes of We Shall Remain (2009), a mini-series that establishes Native history as an essential part of American history from PBS's acclaimed history series American Experience.[12]

In 2017, Eyre is reported to be working on a documentary on "racism in New Mexico", with his starting point being the monument to Juan de Oñate in Alcalde, New Mexico, whose foot was cut off in 1997.[13]

In recent years, Eyre has been involved in the Navajo noir series Dark Winds, which premiered on AMC+ in 2022. Serving as an executive producer and director, Eyre has worked alongside notable figures such as Robert Redford and George R.R. Martin. The series represents a shift towards television for telling Native stories, a medium where Eyre believes there has been a significant opportunity for Native voices to be heard.[14][15]

Style and themes[edit]

Chris Eyre's directorial style is characterized by its poignant storytelling, rich character development, and deep respect for cultural values. His films often address issues of identity, redemption, and the complexities of Native American life in modern America.[16][12]

Personal life[edit]

Chris Eyre's upbringing in Klamath Falls with his adoptive parents instilled in him a love for the rural aesthetics and simple pleasures of life, such as driving pickups. His search for his birth mother, Rose Lumpmouth, and discovery of his roots have profoundly impacted his personal life and professional work, infusing his projects with themes of identity, belonging, and reconciliation. Eyre is known for his dedication to his heritage and cultural advocacy, actively participating in initiatives that promote Native American culture and education. His personal experiences and background not only shape his filmmaking perspective but also drive his commitment to telling stories that resonate with authenticity and depth.[16][9]

Legacy and impact[edit]

Chris Eyre is considered a pivotal figure in Native American cinema. His work has not only contributed to a greater understanding and appreciation of Native American cultures in mainstream media but has also inspired a new generation of Native American filmmakers.[9]

Awards and honors[edit]

Chris Eyre was named a 2007 USA Rockefeller Foundation Fellow and awarded a $50,000 grant by United States Artists, a public charity that supports and promotes the work of American artists.

Chris Eyre was appointed as chairman of the film department at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design as of January 2012.[17]


Year Film Credited as
Director Producer
1998 Things We Do Yes
Smoke Signals Yes Yes
2001 The Doe Boy Yes
2002 Skins Yes Yes
Skinwalkers Yes
2003 Edge of America Yes Yes
2004 A Thief of Time Yes
2005 A Thousand Roads Yes
2007 Imprint Yes
2008 After the Mayflower Yes
Tecumseh's Vision Yes
2011 Hide Away Yes Yes
2015 The Seventh Fire Yes


  1. ^ Andrea LeVasseur (2013). "Chris-Eyre". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Atkin, Hillary (November 2, 2020). "Chris Eyre, writer/director/producer". Television Academy. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  3. ^ "Interview with Chris Eyre (2006)". hemisphericinstitute.org. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  4. ^ a b "Chris Eyre, Director | Savages & Scoundrels". savagesandscoundrels.org. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  5. ^ a b Brockman, Joshua (September 29, 2002). "Telling the Truth From Inside Indian Country". The New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  6. ^ "Awards". IMDb.
  7. ^ "Chris Eyre's Smoke Signals - Filmmaker Magazine - Winter 1998". filmmakermagazine.com. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  8. ^ Foundas, Scott (January 21, 2004). "Edge of America". Variety. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  9. ^ a b c d Wissot, Lauren (July 12, 2012). "The Work is the Reward: Chris Eyre on Hide Away - Filmmaker Magazine". Filmmaker Magazine | Publication with a focus on independent film, offering articles, links, and resources. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  10. ^ "Joy Harjo". Joy Harjo. January 27, 2014. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  11. ^ New Hollywood film for Israeli actress (December 24, 2009) in Israel 21c Innovation News Service Retrieved 2010-01-05
  12. ^ a b Fitts, Alexis. "Interview: Chris Eyre, Native American Director, and Ric Burns, Documentary Filmmaker". Mother Jones. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  13. ^ Romero, Simon (September 30, 2017). "Statue's Stolen Foot Reflects Divisions Over Symbols of Conquest". The New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  14. ^ Saperstein, Pat (August 3, 2023). "'Dark Winds' Director Chris Eyre on Why Native Stories Are Finally Getting Made: 'This Door Is Blown Open'". Variety. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  15. ^ Marcus, Laura E. (June 21, 2022). "Dark Winds Q&A w/ Director Chris Eyre". www.amc.com. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  16. ^ a b Juillerat, Lee. "Chris Eyre (1968-)". www.oregonencyclopedia.org. Retrieved May 12, 2024.
  17. ^ Wissot, Lauren (July 12, 2012). "The Work is the Reward: Chris Eyre on Hide Away - Filmmaker Magazine". Filmmaker Magazine | Publication with a focus on independent film, offering articles, links, and resources. Retrieved May 12, 2024.

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