Songs My Brothers Taught Me
Songs My Brothers Taught Me is a 2015 American drama film written and directed by Chloé Zhao and produced by Zhao and Forest Whitaker. The film is Zhao's debut feature film and was developed at the Sundance Institute workshops. A Native American drama, set in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the film explores the bond between a Lakota Sioux brother and his younger sister.
|Songs My Brothers Taught Me|
|Directed by||Chloé Zhao|
|Produced by||Chloé Zhao|
Angela C. Lee
Nina Yang Bongiovi
|Written by||Chloé Zhao|
Jashaun St. John
|Cinematography||Joshua James Richards|
|Edited by||Alan Canant|
|Distributed by||Kino Lorber (United States)|
The film premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Dramatic Competition section. It was later screened in the Directors' Fortnight section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where it received a nomination for the Caméra d'Or Award for best first feature film.
Jashaun Winters and John Winters are two full siblings, living with their mother, Lisa (Irene Bedard) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. John illegally distributes alcohol to fellow residents to support his family. He is just about to graduate from high school and plans to leave the reservation to go to Los Angeles with his girlfriend, Aurelia (Taysha Fuller). Nervous about leaving he visits his brother, Cody, who is in prison and who urges John to leave.
Carl Winters, their father, dies in an accidental house fire. The siblings go to his funeral, along with their mother, which is crowded as Carl had 25 children with 9 women. At the funeral the children talk amongst themselves. Some of the siblings chose not to take Carl's name as he was not around for most of their lives.
John goes to the café where Aurelia works, taking Jashaun with him. Getting bored and lonely while waiting for them, Jashaun goes to the back of the café where they are kissing and overhears them talking about moving away together.
Jashaun decides to get a job helping Travis, an artist newly freed from prison, sell his wares. He tells her that the reason the number 7 keeps recurring is because of its religious and cultural significance, and also because Crazy Horse said that everything ended at Wounded Knee, but would begin again in the 7th generation, Jashaun's generation.
John breaks the news to Aurelia's family that he is moving to be with Aurelia, and they are unimpressed as he will have no place to live and no job. While out on an alcohol run, he is attacked by rival bootleggers and his car is blown up.
Jashaun goes to Travis' home but learns that, while drunk, he and a friend's father beat each other up and were arrested. She goes to her first rodeo where she runs into one of her brothers, Kevin Winters, who lets her ride their father's favorite horse, Sundance. Kevin tells her that despite growing up in the same home as his parents, they were seldom there, spending all their time at rodeos.
John finally tells his family he is leaving. However, when he arrives at Aurelia's place, he decides not to go and returns home. He gets a job working with one of his half brothers at a body shop and settles into his life on the reservation.
- John Reddy as Johnny Winters
- Jashaun St. John as Jashaun Winters
- Travis Lone Hill as Travis
- Taysha Fuller as Aurelia Clifford
- Irene Bedard as Lisa Winters
- Allen Reddy as Bill
Fortissimo Films acquired the film as its international sales agent after its debut at Sundance Film Festival.The film was released in theaters in France by Diaphana Distribution. In January 2016, it was announced that Kino Lorber had come on board as the North American distributor releasing the film in select theatres nationwide beginning in March.
The film received positive reviews for its honest portrayal of young people's lives on the reservation. The review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives a rating of 90% based on 21 reviews and an average rating of 6.9/10.
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Cannes Film Festival||May 24, 2015||Caméra d'Or||Songs My Brothers Taught Me||Nominated|||
|Independent Spirit Awards||February 27, 2016||Best First Feature||Songs My Brothers Taught Me||Nominated|||
|Best Cinematography||Joshua James Richards||Nominated|
|Someone to Watch Award||Chloé Zhao||Nominated|
- "Songs My Brothers Taught Me". The Numbers. Retrieved May 30, 2016.
- "Songs My Brothers Taught Me". Sundance. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
- "The Directors' Fortnight 2015 selection!". Quinzaine des Réalisateurs. Archived from the original on April 23, 2015. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
- Kang, Inkoo (February 2, 2015). "More Sundance Deals: 'Hot Girls Wanted,' '10,000 Saints,' 'Songs My Brother Taught Me'". Retrieved February 2, 2015.
- Sharf, Zach. "Kino Lorber Acquires Acclaimed Native American Drama 'Songs My Brothers Taught Me'". Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- "Songs My Brothers Taught Me". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
- "Spirit Awards 2016: Complete Winners List". Variety. February 27, 2016. Retrieved May 12, 2018.