“Brothers”: The Dutch Movie About the Syrian Civil War
By: Lindsey Penn/Arab America Contributing Writer
The Syrian Civil War has been going on for years now, and many documentaries and films have been created about the conflict. Some films aim to highlight either side, and others aim to showcase the real humanitarian impact that the conflict has had on the people. “Brothers”, or “Broeders” as it is in Dutch, is one of the latter, but is unique because it is not a documentary. Instead, it is a fictional story that shifts the focus to the story of the everyday person.
“Brothers” was released in 2017. The story is about three brothers, Hassan, Mourad, and Yasin who have gone their own ways since moving out of their parents’ home in the Netherlands. Hassan became a stand-up comedian, while Mourad was a soldier in Afghanistan. Yasin, the youngest, decided to go to Jordan to volunteer in a Syrian refugee camp. While being there, Yasin falls in love with a Syrian woman whose family is still in Syria. They decide that they want to get married, but they need the girl’s father to give them permission so they resolve to cross the border to go to her family.
Meanwhile, Yasin is writing home, but not telling them about the girl he loves. Suddenly, his letters stop coming, and then the authorities in the Netherlands raid the parents’ home on the suspicion that he has joined the rebel militia. Naturally, his parents start to worry. Hassan and Mourad then go off on their own, without telling their parents, to track Yasin. They first start in the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, where they find out that Yasin was in love with a girl. After finding out why he left the refugee camp, they start tracing his steps into Syria. While on the journey, they try to avoid the conflict but soon find that it is not possible.
“Brothers” is an action/adventure drama movie that reflects the chaos in Syria during the civil war. It is a movie that has had international attention for the sad and gripping portrayal of the realities in Syria. While the movie is heavy, the director, Hanro Smitsman, also decided to use some humor (through Hassan’s character) to alleviate some of the darkness. The humor of the movie has sparked some controversy. Some people believe that with such a heavy subject, humor is inappropriate, while others believe that it is necessary so that the film is not dragged completely into darkness.
In 2018, “Brothers” was awarded the Gryphon Award for Best Film for the Generator 18+ category in the Giffoni Film Festival. The festival takes place in Italy. The Generator 18+ category is a section for films that discuss childhood, but with an older audience. Claudio Gubitosi founded the Giffoni Film Festival in 1971 to be a festival for films that portrayed children and teenagers. A group of “jurors” judge each film; the jurors are children and teenagers. The festival has now gone international, with multiple festivals around the world, and now teaches film in Italian schools.
Two of the film’s actors were also nominated for the Golden Calf Competition at the Netherlands Film Festival in 2018. Both Achmed Akkabi (Hassan) and Walid Benmbarek (Mourad) were nominated for the Best Actor award. However, neither of them received the award. The Golden Calf is the grand prize for the Netherlands Film Festival.
The film was also on the shortlist to be entered in the competition for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 91st Academy Awards. However, it ended up not being submitted.
At the International Film Festival of India in Goa, they screened “Brothers” in the World Panorama Section. Although it is non-competitive, the section features contemporary, non-conventional films that dare to cross boundaries that others don’t. It was also shown at the Chennai International Film Festival in the World Cinema category. The film was featured at the Europe on Screen Festival in Jakarta, and at the Berlin European Film Market.
Here is the trailer for the film (with English subtitles).
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