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LOCARNO 2021 Cineasti del Presente

Review: Brotherhood


- This fascinating documentary by young Italian director Francesco Montagner tells the tale of three brothers on the threshold of adulthood, grappling with their unsettling father-master

Review: Brotherhood

Focused almost exclusively on a group of Bosnian brothers, Brotherhood [+see also:
interview: Francesco Montagner
film profile
drills down into the minds of three men-in-the-making, caught between the family responsibilities which weigh heavily upon their shoulders and an inherent need for freedom. The film explores a veritable dilemma: having to choose between their “natural” affiliation to an unyielding clan and the need to discover who they really are, even if this involves making a few mistakes.

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Competing in the Cineasti del Presente section of the Locarno Film Festival, Francesco Montagner’s second feature film is the result of many long years of observing and of slowly earning the respect of a Salafist community, confined to Bosnia’s hinterland, whose lives are governed by daily prayers and the heavy labour of sheep farming. With rare delicacy and analytical rigour, the director gets up close to Jabir, Usama and Useir, three young brothers who are at different stages in their lives which expose their complicated relationship with their father Ibrahim, a radical Islamist preacher who has been sentenced to two years imprisonment for terrorist affiliations. Left alone for the very first time, the three brothers who have each been entrusted with a specific task by their father will have to adjust to a new-found freedom which is as exciting as it is frightening.

Francesco Montagner explores a very delicate time in life: the passage from childhood to adult life, which is further complicated by the departure of the boys’ father, the sense of responsibility weighing down upon them, and the desire, which is explicit for some and harder to express for others, to listen to their own desires. The eldest of the three, who is barely eighteen, suddenly assumes the role of head of family whilst wrestling with an anxiety typical of his age, which leads him to get a taste of things thus far forbidden; the second, who is still highly attached to his father’s radical teachings, replaces him as a pastor, while the youngest tries as best as he can to carry on with his schooling. Using nature - which contrasts with the clamour of city life - to express the torments and inner worlds of his three protagonists, the director treats us to an aesthetically fascinating and substantially complicated portrait of three men-in-the-making. He doesn’t point the finger at anyone, but the film nonetheless emphasises the undeniable role played by family education in our emotional equilibrium. How would we have acted in the place of Jabir, Usama and Useir? Would we have proved capable of rebelling against an authoritarian and unyielding father such as theirs? How would he have influenced our lives? These are just a few of the questions raised by the movie, which always tries to remain true to the viewpoint of its three protagonists. A socially constructed, fierce masculinity, bolstered by blood-thirsty video games and other games acting out an all too recent war, becomes the fulcrum around which the film revolves, offering a glimpse of the tenderness, fragility and need for affection which exists in each of us, regardless of gender. Works in progress torn between duty and deep desires, the three protagonists of Brotherhood embody the greatest conflict inhabiting modern-day society, which posits blind extremism against absolute freedom.

Brotherhood is produced by Czech firm Nutprodukce in co-production with Italian outfits Nefertiti Film and RAI Cinema, while Deckert Distribution are handling international sales.

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(Translated from Italian)

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