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 a generalized representation of Pine Ridge. There simply are not enough films made about this place and these people. As a result, the ones that are made often end up being used to generalize the community – something our mainstream media has done in its appropriation of Native Americans for a long time. This needs to change. My hope is for the audiences to leave the theater feeling that they have gotten to know a group of very complex characters and to have a glimpse into just how diverse and vivacious the Lakota people of Pine Ridge really are, instead of the two dimensional stereotypes we often see represented in today’s dominant culture.
The making of “Songs” was a family affair and it has changed me in many ways. For me, filmmaking will always be driven by my desire to learn about the world I’m not familiar with. Sometimes on that journey, I also get to rediscover who I am. I will always be grateful for my friends on Pine Ridge for giving me that opportunity and for showing me a different way of life.