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"Songs My Brothers Taught Me"


U.S. Dramatic

"Songs My Brother Taught Me" is at once a pinpoint-specific look at modern life among the Oglala Lakota and a universal tale of young people eager to escape their small town lives. Johnny (John Reddy) is a teen living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota who aims to get out, especially after his father — a rodeo bull rider who fathered a couple dozen children on the reservation and off — dies in a house fire. Johnny aims to leave for L.A. with his college-bound girlfriend Aurelia (), and is selling bootleg liquor (violating the reservation's alcohol ban) to raise money. In the meantime, he worries about leaving his 11-year-old sister Jashaun (Jashaun St. John) behind with their inattentive mother (Irene Bedard). Writer-director Chloe Zhao works methodically to set up Johnny's situation, while also capturing in poetic detail the dead-end lives of poverty, alcoholism and hopelessness on the reservation.

- Sean P. Means

"Songs My Brothers Taught Me" is screening in the U.S. Dramatic competition of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. No more festival screenings are scheduled.