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CPH:DOX 2019 CPH:DOX Industry

Pieter-Jan de Pue and Vincent Metzinger • Director and producer of Four Brothers

“I am not saying it will be a humorous film, but we do need some lightness in a deep, sad story”


- Cineuropa talked to Pieter-Jan de Pue and Vincent Metzinger after they accepted the Eurimages Co-Production Award at this year’s CPH:FORUM for the Belgian-German Four Brothers

Pieter-Jan de Pue and Vincent Metzinger  • Director and producer of Four Brothers

For the sixth year running, CPH:FORUM (25-29 March) and Eurimages have presented the €15,000 Eurimages Co-Production Award for the best pitch at the gathering – this time, to Peter-Jan de Pue and Vincent Metzinger, director and producer of Four Brothers (see the news). Dedicated to four Eastern Ukrainian siblings separated from their parents and each other, it sees them fight on opposite sides of the conflict, all the while trying to reunite. “The award goes to a project that impressed us with its integrity, powerful cinematic language and strong creative team with a proven track record,” argued jury members Tamara Tatishvili, of Eurimages, Gabor Greiner (Films Boutique) and David Herdies (Momento Film). 

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Cineuropa: In the finished film, will you try to focus on each of the brothers or concentrate more on Danil, raised in the United States and just discovering this new world?
Pieter-Jan de Pue:
He wants to find his roots, as his adopted parents kept him away from what was happening in Ukraine. To tell the whole story through his eyes, and to discover the story of his brothers by going there, is something I want to show. But I think the film should go beyond that – it should be about the search for identity and what life is really about. In this sense, I want to bring it closer to what I did in [my previous film] The Land of the Enlightened [+see also:
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: find a poetic way of telling the story, involving a lot of imagination. There is a geo-political aspect connected to it, of course, but I think we are going to play on very different levels.

The scope of the project is quite challenging – you could even take each of those brothers and make a film just about him. How do you plan to tell their separate stories?
Pieter-Jan de Pue:
We will certainly try to get access to the brothers on the frontline – they have been fighting each other for four years now. It’s a complicated matter, with lots of administrative issues, because Ukraine is a very bureaucratic country that is still struggling with its Soviet past. You need a lot of permissions from everywhere and everyone. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges: finding people who can make things possible.

During your pitch, you surprised the audience with some rather humorous scenes. How much of that levity will remain in the film?
Pieter-Jan de Pue:
Even when things get very serious, you can still see these boys having fun. They try to keep the harsh conditions of the current situation in Ukraine at bay. Also, lots of their fellow countrymen like to play music, and there is a lot of dancing going on. I felt it should be intertwined with the storyline. I am not saying it will be a humorous film, but we do need some lightness in a deep, sad story.

Vincent Metzinger: Otherwise, it would be a real downer because there is everything from an alcoholic mother to a father with a criminal past. We needed a bit of a break. We really could, as you said, make a film about each of them, but what it’s really about is the four of them finally getting together and deciding whether to stay together or not. 

What do you plan to focus on now, especially with the help of the award?
Vincent Metzinger:
We are still in the development phase, and we concentrated on earning the family’s trust first. Now we will start organising the financing, and at the same time, we really need to start thinking about the shoot. We want to be there with them as much as possible.

Pieter-Jan de Pue: I think we just need to follow them closely and see how it goes. The situation in Ukraine is changing every day, and nobody knows if the conflict will be solved any time soon. Danil, the brother living in America, doesn’t understand it, and neither do his parents. They know that one brother is fighting for Russia and the other one for Ukraine, but they don’t know the details. The third, handicapped, brother wants to stay neutral. It’s his dream to reunite, so he says: “Don’t talk to me about politics – I see you as my brothers.” He is literally crossing the frontline in his wheelchair just to see them. I would love to see them all together, but is it up to me as a documentary filmmaker to make that possible? I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that we can already see that this war is very symbolic, and there are other families that are completely split up. And maybe that’s the importance of the film in the end.

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