The WOW documentary, about a 21-year-old Navajo woman preparing and running for Miss Navajo, is now available for instant streaming on Netflix and SundanceNow. It was reviewed by Roger Ebert this week in The Sun Times, and I’ve excerpted part of it here:
“Women’s History month is just the right time to watch, “Miss Navajo,” a documentary that premiered at Sundance in 2007 and was broadcast on PBS the same year. The title alone may turn people away if you are, like me, not a big fan of beauty pageants but Miss Navajo is the kind of pageant that perhaps even Gloria Steinem could get behind.
“Crystal Frazier doesn’t look like the average Miss American or child pageant contestant. She wears glasses. Her hair isn’t done up in a well-sprayed ‘do that threatens the ozone layer. Her cleavage isn’t displayed precariously with only sticky tape (or the stuff that holds down toupees) keeping her breasts in place. She doesn’t have that wide smile with sparkling white perfect teeth. She wears little or no make-up.
“This isn’t a take on the ugly duckling misfit as we saw in the fictional comedy, “Little Miss Sunshine.” Frazier’s appearance is about the same level as her fellow contestants, but we don’t know this immediately. At home on her family’s ranch, Frazier’s a country girl and I don’t mean glamorous country girl of the Dolly Parton big hair and rhinestone mold. This is a girl who rides a horse and mucks about in sensible clothes that wouldn’t pass the Sundance fashion police ambush videos. Yet that down-to-earth practicality is a good thing because some of the required skills for Miss Navajo aren’t pretty. This is a pageant some feminists could get behind, but not PETA.
“At the Miss Navajo pageant, there are no bathing suits, but there is some butchering. The competition is open to young women, usually between 19 to 25. The contestants must be single and are required to speak Navajo, build fires, cook traditional fry bread, sheer sheep and butcher livestock. The last two things would get a red flag from PETA if the protestors were allowed on the reservation. Luther gives us a glimpse of these activities but refrains from giving us the gore–that would distract from his focus.
“Luther’s documentary provides a different view of pageants. “Miss Navajo” illustrates how an ethnic community transformed what started out as a conventional American beauty contest into something positive and practical.”
Read the whole review at The Chicago Sun Times. (Congrats Billy!)