A film about life on a Native American reservation is part of an afternoon of events exploring life for Native Americans today at the America Festival in Vincennes on Saturday 10 September.
Songs My Brothers Taught Me takes place on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (South Dakota). For her first movie, Chloe Zhao, a young Sino-American director, wanted to show us the life of the Lakota Indians.
Zhao spent long periods over four years on the Reservation and Songs My Brothers Taught Me rings with authenticity. It was made with the cooperation of the Lakota people, and it is rare that an American movie gets up close to an Native American community.
The cast are mostly non-professional locals, the film gives the Lakota people a space to be understood and to express themselves. The story was built with real events and real people, as Zhao immersed herself in their culture.
The story concerns Jashaun, a 13-year-old girl torn between her roots in the reservation and the outside world. Her older brother, Johnny plans to leave the reservation and move to Los Angeles with his girlfriend.
But the death of their rodeo-cowboy father complicates things. Johnny hesitates to leave behind his sister, with whom he shares a special bond. So, he must rethink his future. He does not see a future on the "Res". On the other hand, his sister is a girl who sees her life and some future in this environment where she is growing up. She likes the feeling of family and the traditions of the reservation.
They represent two different ways of thinking of the meaning of home. Through the course of this difficult period, both brother and sister reevaluate what family means to them.
Songs My Brothers Taught Me was acclaimed at Sundance, Cannes and Deauville festivals last year for its depth and visual aplomb.
Chloe Zhao's next movie will follow a French ecologist who fights against the oil tycoons in Nebraska.