General

About the Movie

This trust touched on every aspect of the shoot. Sadly, during production, the childhood home of one of our leads (thirteen year old Jashaun) was burned down in a snowstorm. After much reflection, and talking with Jashaun and her family, I decided to rewrite the script and reshoot scenes, incorporating this event into her character’s story. We filmed Jashaun seeing the ruins for the first time, and what was at first supposed to be a brief pickup, developed into something more as Jashaun decided to keep going, searching in the ashes as she tried to recover her things that were lost in the fire. Everyone present was moved by her strength and resilience, and to me, in that very heartbreaking forty-five minutes, I was only there to document the action, and simply observe as Jashaun and her life presented me with the story it wished to tell. “Songs” is not…

General

My Story

During my time on Pine Ridge, as I became friends with some of the Lakota people living there, I became increasingly intrigued and almost envious of the deep connection they have to their homes, families, communities and their land. This bone-deep attachment also has its consequences, and over time I also became aware of the various struggles and isolation they face because of it. I found this very simple question, has an increasingly complicated answer, one that I find difficult to express in words. So in many ways I made “Songs” to explore this question – “how do you leave the only place you’ve ever known?” Set against the backdrop of the Badlands and the Great Plains of South Dakota, “Songs” is also a kind of poem dedicated to my love for this wild, magnificent, yet marginalized piece of the American west. I went into production with a tight budget,…

General

Director’s Statement

Songs My Brothers Taught Me” is a contemplation of the time I spent on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation during the four years of making this film. One of the most common questions people ask when they hear about some of the difficulties facing Pine Ridge is “Why don’t they just leave? If life is hard, why don’t they just leave the reservation and go somewhere else?” When considering how frequently I have moved around in my own life, I must confess that at times I have often wondered the same thing. I was born in Beijing and left home when I was fourteen, and have been moving from place to place ever since. As a result, there isn’t one particular place in the world from which I cannot just uproot myself and leave behind. ‘Home’, to me, feels like only a concept, and I find myself often exploring its…