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, only a treatment and without a script, writing every morning for the scenes we were to shoot on that particular day. This approach has many challenges, yet many advantages since unlike in most conventional narrative shoots, my team and I were able to have the flexibility to incorporate real-life events as they occurred. We were completely indebted to our cast and friends on Pine Ridge, most of them were acting for the first time, and were born, raised and residing on the reservation. They trusted us completely, and welcomed us into their homes and their lives. The film would certainly not have been possible without their kindness and support.