Brady Jandreau as Brady Blackburn in The Rider. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Native Sun News Today: All Lakota film continues to draw acclaim worldwide

The Rider: An all-Lakota affair
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today Contributing Editor

SPEARFISH – How a young Chinese filmmaker comes to create movies in Lakota Territory that are loved both here at home and at indie festivals worldwide is anybody’s guess.

But Chloé Zhao’s second-in-a-row like that, “The Rider”, shown at the Matthews Opera House on October 16, made a cast family-member grateful that day and garnered a nomination two days later for Best Feature at the 2018 Gotham Awards.

“The Rider” is based on the true story of Indian rodeo cowboy Brady Jandreau of Kyle on the Pine Ridge Reservation. It depicts how he and his family adapt to a catastrophic bronc-riding accident that forces him off the circuit.

Jandreau, his relatives, and his cowboy buddies star in the show, acting as themselves or characters similar to themselves with the same names.

“I am grateful to Chloé,” Brady’s cousin Whitney Jandreau Nordvold told the Spearfish audience. Leading a film discussion after the 104-minute showing, Norvold lauded Zhao for “a real-life story and telling the story in a non-fantastical way.”

She said she “bawled all the way through it” the first time she saw it. This second time, she managed to maintain her composure.

Filmmaker Chloé Zao has created two critically-acclaimed movies on Lakota territory: The Rider (2018) and Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015). Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

She contrasted the picture with stereotypical portrayals of Native American life and times, which perpetuate false, romanticized and outdated impressions. The film reflects that “we lead normal lives, like non-native people do,” she said.

She challenged viewers to “look for yourself in ‘The Rider’,” adding, “Whether you’ve lived on the rez, whether or not you know how to ride horses, the thing about the story is it’s relatable,” she emphasized.

The Gotham Awards, now in their 28th year, will be presented in New York City on November 26, signaling the kick-off to the film awards season and providing recognition to independent productions.

But “The Rider” and Zhao’s previous Pine Ridge pic “Songs My Brothers Taught Me”> have already been to the venerable invitation-only international Cannes Film Festival in France and have gathered clout at a host of other venues.

Sony Pictures Classics acquired distribution rights to “The Rider” just days after it premiered at Cannes and released the movie to cinemas in the United States in April. Box-office earnings have reached into the $3-million range.

It’s no wonder, either. Zhao’s prowess with utilizing non-actors, long since established in the first movie, went beyond expectations when, in “The Rider,” she wrote people with severe disabilities into lead roles in the script.

Brady Jandreau’s real-life sister Lily Jandreau, who is autistic, plays his sister in the film. His real-life young bull-rider friend Lane Scott, who is wheelchair bound in a nursing home after a near-fatal accident, plays himself, as well.

The distance between fact and fiction in this flick is so narrow that only an insider like Nordvold could shed much light on it, making her a model film-discussion leader.

The surname of the fictional family is Blackburn instead of Jandreau, and while Brady’s father Tim plays the fictional father Wayne, the character is quite different from the real man, she said.

None of the rest of the names have been changed to protect the innocent, and the footage of the bronc stomping Brady’s head in the rodeo arena is a video of the actual event.


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