Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Chloé Zhao

»Anything that runs wild has got something bad in them. You want to leave some of that in there, because they need it to survive.«
– Johnny

Johnny and his 11-year old sister Jashaun live alone with their mother on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for Native Americans in South Dakota. Johnny has become like a father to Jashaun – a father the two never had, a famous rodeo rider who sired two dozen children. Johnny wants to start a new life in Los Angeles with his girlfriend, saving up for that venture with money from his drug and alcohol deals. But when Jashaun learns of his plans, she is alarmed. And harsh reality thwarts a young man’s dreams of getting out and getting on.

Songs My Brothers Taught Me is not so much a feature film with conventional plot but more a series of vignettes built around the lives of the Lakota. Indeed, Chloé Zhao returned to the reservation and visited the settlements for a period of four years, talking to the residents. In that process, she found her amateur actors. Together, they have made a film that tells impressively of a young generation of Native Americans in the US, of a rugged landscape and of a taciturn way of life. All without any false romanticism.

Director / Script

Chloé Zhao


Joshua James Richards


Alan Canant


Peter Golub


John Reddy, Jashaun St. John, Taysha Fuller, Eleonore Hendricks, Travis Lone Hill, Cat Clifford, Irene Bedard


Significant Productions (Forest Whitaker)


Fortissimo Films

Portrait of director Chloé Zhao

Chloé Zhao

Born in Beijing, Zhao now lives as a film-maker in the United States. She studied political science at Mount Holyoke College and then film production at New York University. Currently, she is developing her second feature film The Last Prairie. When not making movies, she works for the mobile film workshop project known as Tiny Film House.

Films by Chloé Zhao
Daughters 2010 | The Atlas Mountains 2009 | Post 2008