Lily Gladstone is the crown jewel of awards season so far, on her way to a likely Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Just last week, Gladstone earned the prestigious New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, among many other honors already happening.

But at IndieWire Honors on December 6 in Los Angeles, Lily Gladstone added the Performance Award to those accolades for her searing turn in Martin Scorsese’s crime drama. The Montana-born actress — who is of Piegan Blackfeet, Nez Perce, and European heritage — plays the real-life Mollie Burkhart, an Osage woman who played a pivotal but tragic role in exposing the systematic murder of wealthy Osage by white opportunists in 1920s Oklahoma.

Yet instead of only touting her acclaimed role in the Apple Original Films feature — her studio debut — she took to the IndieWire Honors stage to champion her indie film “Fancy Dance,” an Indigenous drama directed by Erica Tremblay that premiered at Sundance last year but is still without a U.S. distributor.

“This is what I’ve been most excited about this week because it feels like a homecoming. IndieWire saw my performance with ‘Certain Women’ when a lot of people didn’t, when a lot of people just assumed I was some ranch hand that they plucked from Montana. You saw the work. That meant everything to a little actress who’d come up in theater and had done a few lovely, solid indies,” Gladstone said.

“Thank you for this Performance Award. This performance that I want to talk about, this one that has been the absolute highlight of my career, the best work I feel like I’ve ever done, the most important story, elevating the awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women, missing and murdered sisters, working with the greatest, most visionary, most committed director of my life, working with somebody who I love very dearly and had the best chemistry I’ve had with somebody onscreen. The greatest love story that I’ve ever told in my career. This performance is in a film that currently has no distribution. You all thought I was talking about the other movie, didn’t you? I want to highlight my ‘Fancy Dance’ girls,” Gladstone said, applauding her guests at the event, “Fancy Dance” co-star Isabel Deroy-Olson and director Erica Tremblay.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: Lily Gladstone accepts the Performance Award onstage during IndieWire Honors 2023 at NeueHouse Hollywood on December 06, 2023 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/IndieWire via Getty Images)
Lily Gladstone (Photo by Emma McIntyre/IndieWire via Getty Images)IndieWire via Getty Images

“Fancy Dance” is set on the Seneca–Cayuga Nation Reservation and follows Gladstone as a caretaker searching for her missing sister while helping her niece (Deroy-Olson) prepare for an upcoming powwow.

“Back when we premiered at Sundance, IndieWire named [‘Fancy Dance’] one of the 17 films most likely to sell big. Here we are in December and still nothing. Everything I’ve heard from everybody who’s been lucky enough to catch ‘Fancy Dance’ at a festival, who follows the independent circuit […] they have all said it gives them what was missing from ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ the matriarchal, the matrilineal love story, the way that we give everything for our women. We give everything for our nieces, our sisters, our aunties. They feel — whatever void leaving the theater that was left by this horrendous story of the Osage reign of terror, following a survivor of it — if they’ve been lucky enough to see ‘Fancy Dance,’ they feel that it satiated that need.”

She concluded, “I wouldn’t have felt coming up here on this IndieWire stage talking about my studio breakthrough. Thank you for platforming films like ‘Fancy Dance,’ for seeing me in an independent film very early in my career when most people would have dismissed me as a ‘non-actor who’s great at acting.’ I study this shit; I’ve been doing it for a long time.”

IndieWire previously spoke with Gladstone about her lauded turn in the film, and she told us how the film’s fresh perspective on Native culture pushes against the cinematic stereotypes that tend to dominate film history. “I love how we have these moments in the film where you see the bustle, you see the joy, you see the laughter, and then you see everybody settle into these tintype photos where you have to be very still and stoic. I think that’s where a lot of the perception has come from, is poring over historic documents of Native people instead of actually being around Native people. We are a very fun-loving group of folks. Same with ‘Fancy Dance,’ same with a lot of content on ‘Reservation Dogs,’ we talk about some really heavy historical traumas, but there’s always an element of humor. Even though the humor in Marty’s film is through his sense of humor, his lens, when Natives watch it, they pick up where we place it too.”

IndieWire Honors recipients at Neuehouse Hollywood also included Greta Gerwig, Lee Sung Jin, Cord Jefferson, Benny Safdie and Nathan Fielder, Todd Haynes, Chad Stahelski, Jharrel Jerome, and Melina Matsoukas.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by IndieWire (@indiewire)

Veronica Flores conducted all interviews for IndieWire Honors social media videos.

Leave a comment