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Riding the 'Wind'

30 Sep, 2007 By: Billy Gil

Tamara Podemski in Four Sheets to the Wind

It's not news that minority talent has a tough time in Hollywood. Just ask Tamara Podemski, star of Four Sheets to the Wind and recent winner of Sundance's special jury prize for dramatic acting.

First Look Home Entertainment Nov. 6 (prebook Oct. 2) will release Four Sheets to the Wind on DVD, at $26.98. The DVD release coincides with National American Indian Heritage Month.

The 29-year-old actress, singer and dancer recently moved from Toronto, Canada, to Hollywood, Calif., to be closer to an industry that tends to pigeonhole actors such as Podemski, who is half Native American (Saulteaux), half Israeli. Podemski says even the roles offered to Native Americans tend to go to the same few actors, once casting agents have a cadre to choose from.

Although she'd only starred in two previous films, Podemski was chosen for Four Sheets after Sundance programmer Bird Runningwater saw her on Broadway and recommended her to director Sterlin Harjo, who produced the film over four years with assistance through the Sundance Screenwriters Lab.

“Sometimes I don't look native enough, or sometimes too different that I can't look ‘normal' or Caucasian,” Podemski said.

As for DVD, she's excited the film will soon be available to an audience hungry for innovative storytelling.

“It makes it a little more meaningful that you get to be there with audiences that like films that fall through the cracks,” she said of traveling with the film. “We have to target that audience that's on the hunt for the newest, coolest underground thing that's come out.”

Four Sheets stars Cody Lightning of Smoke Signals, the 1998 film that helped put Native American filmmakers on the map. Lightning plays Cufe Smallhill, a young Native American man living in Oklahoma who discovers his father's body after he commits suicide. Podemski stars as Cufe's rebellious sister, who resorts to drinking and meaningless sexual encounters to cope.

Although Podemski doesn't own nearly as much screen time as Lightning in the film, hers ends up being the film's most memorable role.

“I actively seek good stories and multidimensional characters, not just Native American roles,” she said.

“I guess that gave [acting] more meaning than just a superficial way to make income. I am reminded of who the first storytellers were.”

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