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Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band is a confessional, cautionary, and occasionally humorous tale of Robbie Robertson's young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music, The Band. The film is a moving story of Robertson's personal journey, overcoming adversity and finding camaraderie alongside the four other men who would become hi brothers in music and who together made their mark on music history. Once Were Brothers blends rare archival footage, photography iconic songs and interviews with many of Robertson's friends and collaborators including Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison Martin Scorsese, Peter Gabriel, Taj Mahal, Dominique Robertson, Ronnie Hawkins, and more. In a career spanning six decades, Robbie Robertson has continued to create as a songwriter, producer, performer, actor, author and film composer. A half-Mohawk, half-Jewish kid from Toronto, Robertson would travel from the dives of Yonge Street to ...
Robertson and Hawkins remark in the film that Robbie Robertson composed two songs that Hawkins recorded with his band, The Hawks, for their 1959 album, Mr. Dynamo - titled "Hey, Baba Lou" and "Someone Like You" - when he was only 15. See more »
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A compelling account of the rise of The Band, even if told from Robbie's perspective
Before even commenting on the film, which I had the pleasure to see during the TIFF opening night showing, one needs to address the controversy that precludes it. The feud between Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson, and the sides many fans fall into, paints the film into a corner. It constantly dances around the bitter aspects of their relationship, portraying Robbie as saddened by the visceral animosity directed at him. Yes, the movie is based on Robbie's book, and Levon can no longer refute the claims made, but perhaps it is time to give Robbie a chance to explain his perspective. There was no way an autobiographical film would display the conflict in an unbiased and fair manner, since that is not what the film is about. It is about Robbie and his journey with The Band, their rise and dissolution as seen through his eyes, and his final reminiscence on a time when he truly was part of a brotherhood that he lost. Robbie is never critical of Levon, perhaps even sympathetic, but his pain does feel real. The story is emotional and endearing, supported by the multitude of supporting voices including Ronnie Hawkins (who steals the show!), Bruce Springsteen, Martin Scorcese, and managers, friends, and family who knew The Band the best.
Beyond the story as told by the many participants lending their reflections to this doc, I must say that the filmmaking is quite well done. Daniel Roher weaves a film with archival footage, testimonials, and the legendary music into something that is exciting to watch for any fan of The Band. It is emotionally touching, funny, insightful, and ultimately a great tribute. Yes it is Robbie's portrait of The Band, but it nevertheless faithfully chronicles a musical force that would influence generations to come.
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