This week’s Staff Pick Premiere from writer and director Meryam Joobeur is one of the most highly anticipated releases of the year. Originally premiering at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival — and taking home the win for Best Canadian Short Film — “Brotherhood” tells the story of an estranged son returning home from war with a new wife in tow. 

With stunning cinematography and natural performances, “Brotherhood” absorbs the viewer into the complexities of Tunisian family life, and leaves each person to decide for themselves where their allegiances lie.

In speaking with Joobeur, we learned that the making of the film was incredibly personal. Read on for more details on the incredible backstory, and be sure to check out “Brotherhood” right here on Vimeo.

On being inspired by chance encounters:

“The journey of ‘Brotherhood’ started with a chance meeting in February 2016. It was my first time in northern Tunisia. I had planned a weeklong road trip to discover more of my country; on the third day of the trip, I spotted two brothers leading a flock of sheep across a lush green hillside. The contrast of their unique, freckled faces against the green landscape immediately struck me. So I stopped the car to see if I could take their photograph. Malek was protective of his younger brother, Chaker, and refused. I continued on my trip, but I was deeply marked by their faces and the mystery of their lives.” 

On following inspiration wherever it may lead:

“During that same trip, I learned that a neighboring town had experienced a surge of radicalization after the 2011 Tunisian revolution. This knowledge, plus the encounter with the brothers, became the basis for the film’s narrative. I knew I wanted to address this social issue through the intimate lens of one family. I also knew that I wanted Malek and Chaker to act in the film.

And so, a year later, I went searching for them without knowing their names or where I had first seen them. I searched from village to village, asking strangers about the two redheaded brothers but was met with puzzled expressions and zero leads. Then, miraculously, I managed to come across the exact spot where we met; I found a shepherd who pointed me to their house. Excitement and nerves built as I landed on their doorstep with the script for ‘Brotherhood’ in hand. I had also written a role for a third, much younger brother (who I thought I would have to cast). But to my surprise, the first person to emerge from the house was their youngest brother, Rayene, with the same red hair and freckles.”

On locking down the lead actors:

“At first, they were baffled by my request, but I never doubted my instinct that there was something special about them. In the weeks leading up to the shoot, the bond between us deepened. That was in March of 2018.”

On being transformed by the film you make:

“As a filmmaker, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing collaborators pour their heart and soul into bringing your story to life. I feel that we all came out of the experience of making ‘Brotherhood’ transformed in some way. My transformation was the experience of deeply and viscerally understanding the meaning of faith, And learning to listen to my instincts.”

On what it takes to be a director:

“Directing requires much more than storytelling talent or a deep technical knowledge of cinema. It requires that you lead a team through constant challenges and setbacks in order to bring your vision to life.”

On the importance of developing leadership skills:

“I think aspiring filmmakers should take the time to reflect on what type of leader they want to be: Do they want to known as a director who leads with fear or love? Both approaches can create a strong final film, but only one approach — leading with love — is healthy and sustainable, in my opinion. And by “love,” I don’t mean entertaining a utopian vision. There will still be moments of confrontation and difficulty. But I prefer to inspire my collaborators over demanding loyalty.”

On what’s next:

“I’m developing ‘Brotherhood’ into a feature film! The narrative approach is going to be very different, but it will have the same lead cast. I’m excited about deepening the collaboration with the actors and all of the creative leads.”

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