A heartfelt dramatised contemplation of life on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, experienced partly through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl steeling herself for the departure of her adored older brother.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
“At once a family drama, landscape film, neorealist exposé, and ethnographic immersion, the remarkable debut feature Songs My Brothers Taught Me is a product of the four years that writer-director Chloé Zhao spent on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, getting to know some of its Lakota residents and gathering impressions of the texture of their lives. In outline, the film is simple: it’s the story of a sensitive, fatherless, bootlegging high-school student (John Reddy) who wants to leave the reservation with his college-bound girlfriend (Taysha Fuller) but is blocked, partly by adverse circumstances and partly by his reluctance to abandon his little sister (Jashaun St John). In form and emotional tone, though, the film is exceptionally rich – by turns raw, dreamy, harsh, sensuous, touching, intimate, garrulous, and elliptical.” — Stuart Klawans, The Nation
“The balance of humanistic and ethnographic filmmaking with poignant, often seemingly unscripted drama has many rewards… As harsh as the view often is, it’s underscored by strong notes of hope and of bone-deep identity.” — David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter