This 1996 short film, ‘Billy Yellowcorn’ only has 26 views as of this writing, which is a crime, as it represents some rare, early work by ‘Key and Peele’ star Keegan Michael Key (shot when he would’ve been 25, according to Wikipedia). It’s basically a one-act, one-location story about Key (Billy Yellowcorn, presumably) making a tape recording to explain to his mom why he’s leaving the city (Detroit, I think) so he can go live with his father and learn how to be an Indian. It’s amazing that Key can do a damn solid acting job in a passionately-written film that still manages to remind you of every student film you’ve ever seen and/or made. It’s hilarious because it feels so familiar. I mean really, aren’t we all Billy Yellowcorn?
A couple of my favorite lines:
- “Them eyes know what it means to be Indian. I got his face but I don’t have those eyes! I gotta be with him so I can learn how to see.”
- “This city ain’t no place for an Indian, ma.”
- “I guess she thought if she could suck my pipeline long enough, she’d find her soul.”
- “And the salmon… he just stares at me. Like he knew me. It was dad, ma.”
It really has everything – Father angst. Racial angst. Sexual angst. Cancer angst. Salmon angst. Excessive cigarette smoking and beer drinking. And it ends with SPOILER ALERT…. a suicide. What is it about student films that half of them are always about suicide or involve a suicide note? I think I personally worked on at least three when I was a film major. This is so student film. It should be shown to film students in every film class to teach them just how student film a student film can be.
“This city ain’t no place for an Indian, ma” is my new email sign off.