Brotherhood by Richard Bell is based on the real-life capsizing of a canoe in Ontario in 1926 that killed 11. (Submitted)

Director visiting Sidney says movie gives voice to boys

Recent death of brother gives Richard Bell’s Brotherhood added personal dimension

Personal and public tragedies unfolding in both the past and the present, including a brother’s death, will hover front and centre when Canadian filmmaker Richard Bell appears in Sidney Thursday to discuss his movie Brotherhood.

The movie — which will close out its run at the Star Cinema on Thursday after first appearing on Aug. 14 — tells the story of teenaged boys and their male adult leaders making life and death choices after a freak storm capsizes their canoe. While drawing inspiration from real-life events in rural Ontario in the 1920s, Bell frames the movie as a commentary on the Boy Crisis. Its theorists lament that boys find themselves falling behind their female peers in many areas for a multitude of reasons in warning of societal dysfunction, an idea that has received opposition from feminist and other circles.

While the movie features female characters in flashbacks, its largely male cast led by Brendan Fehr (Night Shift, Roswell) and Brendan Fletcher (The Revenant) lacks diversity and Bell readily admits the movie would not receive financing in today’s climate. But this aspect neither diminishes its story-telling power nor its contemporary relevancy, he said.

When producers asked Bell to show them how the movie would be relevant (he started work on it in 2011), he had a “light-bulb moment” after studying academic and popular literature that addresses the Boy Crisis, a subject that rose to the forefront with the Columbine Massacre but also has literary antecedents in characters including Peter Pan, Pinocchio and various myths.

RELATED: Sidney’s Star Cinema looks to reel in audience with reopening

“In the 1920s, people were just as concerned about boys, because a lot of their fathers did not return from the war,” he said. “And if they did, they were just a shell of the human they were. So boys had to grow up pretty fast.” In fact, community leaders of the era considered camps like the one shown in the movie as a corrective to the listlessness of boys, a condition then blamed on contemporary media.

“Boys need time together, they need to be outside, they need to be rubbing elbows with another, they need to unplug from the radio,” he said. “I read this article from the 1920s about how boys were just so obsessed with gangster movies. You can make that gangster rap now,” he said.

This question about the movie’s contemporary relevancy has since gained tragic personal dimension following the recent death of Bell’s older brother at the age of 47 because of a fentanyl overdose.

“That question has a new relevancy for me because my brother really was a lost boy,” said Bell, who learnt about his brother’s death from his younger brother, while attending a barbecue in Ontario hosted by one of the cast members. This loss led Bell to abandon his plans for a promotional tour of the movie through Ontario, flying home to be with his mother in Vancouver, from where he called the Peninsula News Review.

Brotherhood is also running against the larger backdrop of various social justice movements (Me Too, Black Lives Matter) and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are in the ’20s again oddly and these movements are making great strides, and I really hope that men and boys don’t get left behind in these big conversations about mental health and wellness and empowerment and self-love and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “Right now, I feel like manhood is being demonized. The villain right now is the straight, white male. My brother was a straight, white male and he was no villain.”

The movie also comments on the current pandemic. For one, the real-life characters inspiring the movie were alive during the Spanish Flu and one of the adult characters in the movie lost his son because of it. The movie also poses questions about the level of sacrifice that individuals are prepared to make during an existentialist, unforeseen crisis.

Brotherhood is about a kind of nobility and selflessness, a kind of sacrifice that is so pure and seemingly more and more rare, that I hope people will walk out of the film wanting to be a little bit better,” he said. “I truly feel that people show who they are in an emergency.”

Bell will discuss this and the other subjects after the 3:10 and 7 p.m. showings on Thursday.

RELATED:Sidney’s Cameo project on pace despite pandemic


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Movies

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New report finds ‘chronic’ shortage of daycare spaces across Greater Victoria

Sidney meets 52 per cent of demand, the best figure for six surveyed communities

Greater Victoria thrift shop quietly closes two locations indefinitely

Society of St. Vincent de Paul shut down Sooke and Central Saanich storefronts

Heavy rains cause wastewater overflow off Oak Bay, Saanich beaches

Affected beaches will be posted with public health advisory signs

Four-storey Oak Bay Avenue development to have rooftop garden

Redfern 35-unit development sent to public hearing

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

POLL: Do you agree with the decision to call a provincial election for Oct. 24?

British Columbians will put their social distancing skills to the test when… Continue reading

‘Won’t be gathering for Thanksgiving:’ Trudeau says COVID-19 2nd wave underway

In all, COVID-19 has killed about 9,250 people in Canada

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Cops for Cancer: COVID-19 can’t stop Tour de Rock

‘having the chance to come back and ride this year means everything to me’

Most Read