- Reprinted with permission of Steve Cowley (Cree).
York, NY (May 11, 2007) - Naming Number Two premiered in
New York City at the National Museum of the American Indian's
George Gustav Heye Center last evening to a standing ovation.
Initially completed in April 2005, the small film with a big heart
pulls all the right strings. The film which was originally an
award winning one-woman stage play opens in theaters on July 27th.
The film starred the incomparable Ruby Dee, who was honored at
an invite-only reception as a special guest for the NMAI premiere.
The special pre-premiere screening of this film was presented
as part of NMAI's new works showcase from Hawai'i and the Pacific
Islands in conjunction with the Hawai'i Cultural Foundation.
Playwright-turned-director Toa Fraser adapted his 2000 play into
an award-winning family film about a Fijian matriarch living in
New Zealand who undertakes the task of naming her successor. Naming
No. 2 explores the universal values of family morals, traditions
and legacies. It's an exuberant story about singing, loving and
fighting; everything that binds families through life and death.
family matriarch Nana Maria (Ruby Dee) awakens one morning from
a dream that inspires her to call for a traditional feast during
which she will name her successor. Not only does she order a feast
to be prepared in one day, she adds that only the grandchildren
will be involved with no outsiders invited.
She demands that her long missing grandson Tyson be in charge
of the planning; except Tyson is far removed from the clan. Although
the film adaptation doesn't quite explain Tyson's absence, in
the whole scope of the film, it is irrelevant. He's not interested
in tradition but reluctantly appears at the house
There are a number of scenes where Fraser's direction is intensely
concentrated on the star, Ruby Dee,
Nana, in this drama. The scene in the bedroom where Nana hands
her will to
I won't tell
will leave you breathless.
Dee's performance is in the zone where she, as a living legend,
shines. Cinematographer Leon Narbey's (Whale Rider) close ups
of Dee's facial reactions are so intimately shot that we can feel
all of her emotions; you can't take your eyes off her.
At one point Nana is so distraught at her grandchildren's inability
to follow her directions that she announces that the day's feast
is called off. Nana retires to her room and we watch as she reminisces
(through beautiful flashbacks) on a time when her family was rich
in Fijian tradition. Because of Nana's heartfelt insistence her
family continues planning the feast. At the film's resolution,
Nana names her successor, the family is reunited, tradition will
continue and family order is restored.
Naming No. 2's list of honors: World Cinema Audience Award:
Dramatic, at the Sundance Film Festival 2006; Official Selection
Panorama at the Berlin Film Festival 2006; Audience Award at the
Brisbane International Film Festival 2006; Best Actress Award
- Ruby Dee at the Atlanta Film Festival 2006.
After more than 36 film appearances, numerous stage and televisions
shows, Ruby Dee's star has never shone brighter.
Steve Cowley (Cree), CEO
Tapwe Production Projects
Image credits: Naming
Number Two - courtesy of The New Zealand Film Commission;
Ruby Dee wears the gift of a blanket presented at the screening
of Naming Number Two. At left: John Haworth, Director,
George Gustav Heye Center and JoAnn Chase, former Executive Director
of the National Congress of American Indians. - photograph by
Julia Smith; Janu Cassidy, co-founder of the Hawai'i Cultural
Foundation, presents a lei to Miss Dee. - photograph by
Julia Smith; Ruby Dee greets actor Terry Carter at a reception
in her honor preceding the screening. - photograph by Julia Smith;
Ruby Dee and Sarah Smith, Consular Officer, New Zealand Consulate
General - New York. - photograph by Julia Smith