CHENNAI: Movies about family loyalty and rigid moral principles, and the kind of conflict and dilemma they can cause, can be incredibly powerful.
Montreal-based, Tunisian-born Meryam Joobeur’s “Brotherhood” tackles this predicament in her 2018 work, which is in the race for the Oscars this year in the live action short film category. Screened at the Sundance and Toronto film festivals, where it won the Best Canadian Short award, “Brotherhood” has won 60 accolades in 48 countries, which is no small achievement.
In 25 minutes, Joobeur weaves into her plot a poignant take on a family’s inner turmoil whose consequences can only be tragic. Mohamed lives in pastoral Tunisia with his wife and two sons. They rear sheep and are constantly fighting off wolves. In one early telling scene, we see one of the sheep wounded by a wolf, and Mohamed tells his middle son, who is with him, that the animal shows no mercy.
Much later, Mohamed himself turns into a merciless creature. When his eldest estranged son returns from Syria, after having fought alongside Daesh and with a wife in tow, the father is deeply suspicious. He knows his son has not been up to any good in Syria, and the tension between the two is palpable. The family dynamics are like a time-bomb, resulting in complex issues, with the film touching upon the theme of religious radicalism.
Set in an exotic land where the calm hides an impending tragedy, the cinematography is beautiful but restrained. “Brotherhood” is pure drama, and the short film delivers.
Joobeur hopes to convert her work into a feature-length movie. She has a completed script, which will be very different from the short work. Last year’s Oscar-winning short “Skin” managed to persuade people to make a full-length movie from the piece. Joobeur’s may well be next.