Quirky, funny and heartwarming, “My Hero Brother” deepens the viewer’s understanding of special needs people and their families.
Set against the richly colorful backdrop of India, this 78-minute film offers a closer look at the bonding between siblings, seemingly living in two different worlds, against all odds and struggles in the face of adversity whether that be physical or emotional.
This is another great film to add to your itinerary during the 32nd Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
Watch the movie trailer below.
A group of remarkable young people with Down Syndrome embarks on a demanding trip through the Indian Himalayas, accompanied by their “normal” brothers and sisters. Unresolved conflicts and the complexities of growing up with a Down syndrome child in the family come to surface, while a heart-warming and special closeness develops among the siblings as they deal with formidable physical and emotional challenges. The difficult trials and poignant relationships set against the richly colorful backdrop of India, open new horizons and greatly deepen our understanding of special needs people and their families.
Q&A with Filmmaker Yonatan Nir
What inspired you to make this film? And how did you hear about this India expedition?
Just like in my previous films Dolphin Boy and Cutting the Pain, I’m always looking for stories of specific individuals who are going through a process of change, who are struggling with personal challenges, and I always look for hope. I’m also very attracted to the relationship between man and nature and in my previous work as a photojournalist I worked a lot in India, so all these elements joined together in this project. I heard of it by chance through a colleague, who is a good friend of the founders of My Hero Brother – Enosh Cassel and Itamar Peleg.
What is a hero brother and what does it mean to you?
In the beginning I thought that the heroes are the “neuro-typical” siblings and my camera focused on them, but slowly I realized that I became closer and more interested in the siblings with Down Syndrome and their perception of life, and the things that we can learn from them, their emotional intelligence, and their ability to be in the present. They’re like grown up children and they bring a lot of qualities that we can all appreciate and learn from. So, I’m not sure who the hero brother is, I think the whole group is full of heroes.
What were the challenges you and your crew faced making this film?
We worked in pretty complicated conditions, we needed to cover many stories at the same time, while driving and hiking, so we worked with a few teams that covered the journey at the same time. My biggest challenge was to understand, as the journey developed, what are the stories I want to tell, who the protagonists are. There is no way to reenact or repeat a scene because people with Down Syndrome will not cooperate with manipulations, so I had to be ready 24/7. The other main challenge was to create an atmosphere of trust, so people will feel good and confident to share their most intimate stories with the camera. At the end of the day it’s important that not only I will enjoy the process, but also the protagonist, who goes through a process of rehabilitation or empowerment.
What was your most memorable moment making this film?
There is very small scene in the film that for me was the most touching. Very early in the morning, when it was still cold, Amar asked his friend Golan to hug him so they could stay warm. They just stand their and hug for a minute. In the background it’s very easy to notice their siblings, Harel and Irena, standing there, a little sarcastic. After a few seconds they look at each other and decide to hug as well. For me this is a memorable moment that shows how people with Down Syndrome see the world, and how much we can learn from them.
Was there something you left on the cutting room floor that you wished you could have included in this film?
There was one amazing scene, when our group met a group of Indians. The bonding between the groups was amazing, even though they were from different countries, religions and cultures. When they met the instantly became like family, because they all share the same stories and challenges. This event showed us that the story of My Hero Brother is universal, and led us to create an interactive website which aims empower people with special needs siblings; encourage them to share their stories and take action. The website is set to launch in the next few months, and we hope to build a supportive community of siblings around it.
If there’s one message you’d like audiences to leave with after watching this film what would that be?
At the end of the day, this is not a film about people with disabilities, it’s a film about brotherhood, about people that love each other and step out of their comfort zone in order to make their relationship stronger. I hope it will inspire more people to think what they can do together with the people that they love in order to deal with challenging situations, in order to build and improve their relationships. I always like to give all the credit to the Down syndrome siblings – they have the ability to open their hearts and minds, without a filter, with less fear to show love. This is something that I would like to take into my own life and am happy to share with those around me.
What does it mean to you to have this film screen at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival?
When the Santa Barbara International Film Festival called us I was very excited, because I’ve heard amazing things about this festival. It’s a huge honor for us to come with our modest film to this international and prestigious film festival. We’re very excited, I will be attending the festival together with our editor.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER
Award-winning filmmaker Yonatan Nir has been telling stories for over a decade – from epic photojournalist reports, to the critically acclaimed Dolphin Boy (2011) which was acquired by Disney Pictures, he successfully captures and portrays unique relationships formed between man and nature. After joining Hey Jude Productions in 2008, Nir went on to direct and produce Beyond the Boundaries (2011) and Cutting the Pain (2012). Nir is also a highly demanded speaker and film professor and has given over 400 lectures in Israel and around the world.
Tuesday, February 7 – at 5 p.m. – Metro 4 Theater, Screen 1 Wednesday, February 8 – at 12 p.m. – Metro 4 Theater, Screen 4