THE DOE BOY (Randy Redroad, 2001)

Exquisitely photographed by Laszlo Kadar, beautifully acted by James Duval as 17-year-old Hunter Kirk, The Doe Boy is Randy Redroad’s remarkable feature debut. The film is, I understand, semi-autobiographical.
     In an Oklahoma town in the mid-1980s, Hunter exists between cultures; his father is white, his mother, Cherokee. Hunter plainly identifies more with his Cherokee heritage; he is close to his mother and closer to his maternal grandfather than to his father, who, embittered about much that hasn’t panned out in his life, is one more “stupid fucking white man” (Dead Man, Jim Jarmusch, 1995). But Hank and Maggie Kirk are a loving couple, and they both cherish their Hunter, who is even more of an outsider for being a “bleeder,” a hemophiliac, who now may have AIDS as a result of his routine transfusions.
     Sometimes this moody boy seems to be daring the world, or at least someone or other in it, to give him a bloody nose. When the only other hemophiliac Native American in Oklahoma dies of AIDS, Hunter is terrified, dissolving in tears in his father’s arms: one of several gut-wrenching scenes. At the same time, new possibilities in his life have just turned up: he has moved into his own apartment and has a first girlfriend.
     Hunter confronts his fear in the setting of his greatest shortfall: the woods where, as a child accompanying his father on a hunting outing, he shot to death a doe, mistaking it for a buck. Thus his nickname, Doe Boy. The film charts Hunter’s working his way through the stigma of a disastrous past. Instrumental in this regard is his grandfather’s flute, which offers more hope for his future than his father’s gun.
     Hunter learns how to pry life from the shadow of death.


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