I am going to make a really big leap by assuming that Hey Viktor! is a daydream realized for many formally young actors who found success with a film and a character that is beloved. A character that can easily define them as talented and special. They may now find themselves intertwined in the blurry line between that character and becoming a grown up to be taken serious. As much as finding a path to continue on with the good old days sounds, and while you are now in control and able to make your own choices, the dark truth that those days are gone and it’s the ones who lived it are usually the last to know. And as crazy as it sounds this can be quite relatable for many of us, who cherish a film from our younger days. We often find ourselves going down the exact same rabbit holes- clinging to Fandoms and hoping for one more shot to continue the story and relive the moments. This may be the *tiniest* (read as EXTREMELY) relatable to some of us more than others. As a young adult living in Orlando, Florida when Smoke Signals came out, I devoured every offering of Independent film that I could find. Smoke Signals was a formative piece of my journey to film. I sat in the dark at the Enzian Theater eating warm chocolate chip cookies watching this film on repeat. Even now, years later I still watch it every few years. I cannot imagine what growing up in the shadow of that film was like.
What is Hey Viktor! about?
It’s been 25 years since all eyes were on the Cree kid from Edmonton who made it big with a starring role in the indie hit Smoke Signals. Now grown up, former child actor Cody Lightning has been forced to move home to his reserve in northern Alberta. He still believes himself to be famous— even though the only parts he gets these days are porn & fracking commercials. He is deep in the bottle and down on his luck, basking in past glories via faded VHS tapes and endlessly rewriting zombie-priest scripts with creative partner Kate (Hannah Cheesman). But when Cody learns his wife and kids are leaving him for a younger, more successful actor, and his friends stage an intervention, Cody seizes the moment — and camera crew — he decides it’s time to quit fucking around and take one last shot at producing his masterpiece by writing, directing, & starring in SMOKE SIGNALS 2: STILL SMOKING. A documentary crew follows Cody on his journey around the Indigenous world. With backing from a psycho investor and in hot pursuit of Adam Beach’s wig to tie the film together, Lightning’s deliriously dysfunctional set becomes a mess of unresolved tension and self-destruction, leading to a long-overdue reckoning with the community that raised him.
Did I like the movie?
Hey Viktor! is hard to describe in a cute sound bite. It is very clearly well crafted and extremely thought through. No crumb is left behind and the attention to story craft is exceptional. The story is well laid out thoughtfully and every twist is satisfying. Hey Viktor! seamlessly blends the unique visual styles of this film being a documentary at one point, a reality show at another point, a behind the scenes shoot, and a low budget independent film, all the while maintaining the same quality of the original movie Smoke Signals. One issue that will always come up for me with any mockumentary style project is whether or not there is a conscious choice of why the camera is there and what the camera is doing. Hey Viktor! perfectly answered the audience’s questions every time they had a moment to step back and wonder, “am I fly on the wall here or am I just a voyeur?” There is no clear answer and they honestly don’t try to force it. It is a ride to redemption and ruin.
Was Hey Viktor! messy? Yes, definitely. But in every way that it meant to be and not in a way that wasn’t very intentional. Most of the movie you had that awful feeling that you get when you are slightly embarrassed about a friend whose behavior is well justified to you because you know them and their story, but to the outside world they are a train wreck that is appalling and hard to accept. Every misstep Cody makes feels somewhat justified, even if he is absolutely wrong. You wonder how many times he will cross over the line with everyone in his life and more so with the people closest to him all the while hurting himself and by proxy the people around him, who are desperately trying to save him from his inevitable fate?
Will you be able to enjoy the movie if you have not seen a Smoke Signals?
First, as soon as possible go to Paramount+ and watch Smoke Signals. Figure it out and get yourself there. You will not regret it. There is no way that this movie would’ve worked if the source material didn’t provide enough of a cultural touchstone to be relevant 25 years later. As to whether or not, it will be enjoyable if you’ve not seen it yet, I cannot realistically speak to it as I have seen the movie more times than I could possibly count. This story does stand separately from any plot in the first movie. So in many ways you won’t be out of the loop story wise. It is very much about the actors from the film and not the characters they played. Will you have more context if you’ve already seen it? Yes, of course. It is always better to have a reason to be invested. But on his own, Cody Lightning is a flawed enough character that you can easily invest in the potential for greatness that Kate sees.
Section: Viewpoints (World Premiere)
Written & Directed by: Cody Lightning
Producers: Joshua M. Jackson, Sara Corry, Kyle Thomas, Blake McWilliam
Cast: Cody Lightning, Hannah Cheesman, Simon Baker, Adam Beach, Gary Farmer, Irene Bedard, Colin Mochrie
Runtime: 102 Minutes
Thursday, June 8, 7:30pm, Village East (World Premiere)
Friday, June 9, 9:30pm, AMC 19th Street (Public Screening #2)
Saturday, June 17, 9:00pm, Village East (Public Screening #3)
About Tribeca Festival
The Tribeca Festival, presented by OKX, brings artists and diverse audiences together to celebrate storytelling in all its forms, including film, TV, music, audio storytelling, games, and XR. With strong roots in independent film, Tribeca is synonymous with creative expression and entertainment. Tribeca champions emerging and established voices, discovers award-winning talent, curates innovative experiences, and introduces new ideas through exclusive premieres, exhibitions, conversations, and live performances.
The Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan following the attacks on the World Trade Center. The annual Tribeca Festival will celebrate its 22nd year from June 7–18, 2023 in New York City.