High school senior Johnny is fixing to leave the Pine Ridge Reservation when the unexpected death of his rodeo-cowboy father complicates things. Reluctant to leave behind his 13-year-old sister, Jashaun, with whom he shares a special bond, Johnny must rethink his future. While Jashaun seeks out answers from her older half-brothers, Johnny's increasing inner conflict stands in the way of his departure, setting both of them on separate paths toward rediscovering the meaning of home.
Marking an auspicious feature debut, Chloé Zhao sensitively infiltrates isolated Indian Country to offer a rare, modern gaze keenly felt through the eyes of her magnetic non-professional lead actors. While Joshua James Richards's evocative cinematography captures the breathtaking Badlands of legend, Zhao organically taps into the pulse of her complicated characters' evolving narratives. Demonstrating directorial aplomb and a transcendent storytelling approach, Songs My Brothers Taught Me is a universally resonant tale set amid the magnificent, promising wild of young generation Lakotas. —C.D.
Chloé Zhao is a New York-based filmmaker and one of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film. She attended the Sundance Directors, Screenwriters, Music and Sound Lab, the Film Independent Screenwriters Lab, and the IFP Narrative Lab with her first feature Songs My Brothers Taught Me. Zhao was raised in China and England, and studied politics at Mount Holyoke College and film at New York University’s Graduate Film Program.