Focussing on Robbie Robertson this is a confessional, cautionary, and occasionally humorous tale of his 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 from Toronto as a teenage whiz-kid guitar-slinger too young to get into the clubs where he played every night with rockabilly Ronnie Hawkins to touring with Bob Dylan in 1966 and on to international fame as one of The Band. Robertson was only 24 when he and Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson recorded their groundbreaking debut album Music From Big Pink. This period, the mid-1960s through the early 1970s, was a time of cultural and political upheaval as well as when some of the most enduring and influential rock music was made, changing the face of popular music forever. Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band joins a growing list of recent documentaries, including Echo in the Canyon, David Crosby: Remember My Name and Scorsese’s Rolling Thunder Revue, which have examined the music and musicians of this remarkably fertile period.The film is more than tinged with sadness and pain.
Robertson says he hopes audiences will come away with a better understanding of the extraordinary music this once-in-a-lifetime musical collaborative created together. “What I really want people to realize is that this group, The Band, was one of the most unique musical entities ever in the history of rock and roll. There was never anything like it before, and there will never be anything like it again.”
(Canada/2019/directed by Daniel Roher/102 mins/unrated)