#MUFFApproved: Songs My Brothers Taught Me
Songs My Brothers Taught Me
Director: Chloé Zhao
Tomorrow isn't just any ordinary day. It's a very special day. It's the day that you can see one of the best films from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival—for free if you're a high school student, I might add—in Toronto. What? Oh, right, yeah, apparently it's also Valentine's Day but who cares about that when Songs My Brothers Taught Me is screening as part of TIFF Next Wave? Exactly.
I still vividly remember attending a screening at Sundance last year. I saw it with a friend and I remember at the end we both turned to each other and went, "Woah." I went because I was focusing on women-directed films (and covering them for Cinefilles) and I went because I knew about this film whilst it was still in the pre-production stages and felt a strange, albeit distant, connection to it. I didn't know anything about it otherwise.
And damn, did it ever blow me away. (You can read my Cinefilles review here.) It's a quiet, contemplative film; unhurried and assured, telling just as much of the story through the cinematography and landscape as the dialogue. It's a story about family and home and belonging. The sorts of stories we're all familiar with, of course, and can all relate to. But what makes Songs a standout is that it's a story told through the eyes of the Native community, specifically the Lakota youth on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
When was the last time you saw a poignant, authentic film about the Native community? Yeah, exactly. Zhao describing how the Pine Ridge community inspired her: "The contrast between the devastation and the beauty was something that left a deep mark in me [...] Every person I met had a story that fascinated me. Though I was interested in learning about the traditional culture, I found my deep focus in how young Lakotas live their lives today, and all the pains and pleasures that come with being the young heirs of this ancient land."
And Zhao spent years (literally) nurturing this project from inception to finish. It was made possible through grants and scholarships and awards, each a small step closer to this beautiful story being shared with audiences. After heaps of praise at both Sundance and Cannes, I was surprised that Songs wasn't immediately scooped up for distribution. Well, only partially surprised because, well, you know. But last month the film team announced that Kino Lorber would be handling the North American distribution. FINALLY.
But why wait to se it when you can see it tomorrow! Seriously, people of Toronto, go see this movie. Look, I'll even do you a solid and link you to the screening information. And as if you were still on the fence, here's the trailer:
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