Songs My Brothers Taught Me (Chloé Zhao Ting, 2015)
With an older brother in jail and living with their single mother on Pine Ridge Reservation, Johnny and his sister Jashuan's lives develop new challenges when their absentee cowboy father suddenly dies. The loss prompts Johnny to strike out for Los Angeles, but would mean leaving behind his beloved sister.
This is a type of film for which there may be no simple name. It is a fictionalised documentary—as are all three of the features directed by Zhao Ting. All of the people shown in this film, as in the others, are real people, most going under their real names. There is a story, but it is only there because there has to be one, as E.M. Forster pointed out, sadly.
It sets out to show the quality of life of Oglala Sioux on the reservation in South Dakota, and does so. The 'story' suggests that it's 90% bad, but ends with the 10% that is good. It's very sad.
Forster, E. M. 1927, Aspects of the Novel, Edward Arnold, London, p. 41: "Yes—oh, dear, yes—the novel [/film] tells a story. That is the fundamental aspect without which it could not exist. That is the highest factor common to all novels, and I wish that it was not so, that it could be something different—melody, or perception of the truth, not this low atavistic form."
Garry Gillard | New: 29 December, 2020 | Now: 17 January, 2021