Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band

In DVD/Blu-ray by Samuel Love

In the late 1960s, a dazzling group – simply called The Band – combined rock, country and blues and turned the music world upside down. And yet, they’re never uttered in the same breath as other bands of the era such as The Beatles or The Rolling Stones. This new documentary feature from Daniel Roher attempts to reaffirm their place in music history, as Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen and even Martin Scorsese chime in with how magical and unparalleled they were, and how much they were influenced by their body of work. 

Documenting the almost familial bond between the ‘brothers’ of The Band, this comprehensive documentary relies on the group’s iconic guitarist Robbie Robertson’s recollections to form a narrative around their rise and subsequent fall. The Band was so beautiful, Robertson states, that it simply went up in flames. Recollections of the bond between the group’s members offers more tender and heartfelt moments than are usually found in music documentaries, and only serve to enhance the viewer’s appreciation for the resulting music that The Band were able to produce together.

Packed with archive material and, most importantly, The Band’s beloved catalogue of songs, Once Were Brothers is a wonderful trip down memory lane for fans of the acclaimed group. But newcomers should not be put off – on the contrary, going into the film without prior knowledge of The Band will surely make for an even more engrossing and surprising experience. As the group hit numerous highs, each comes with a crushing blow and footage of Scorsese’s iconic film of the group’s farewell concert The Last Waltz is all the more poignant when experienced at the end of the film’s story.

Once Were Brothers offers a fascinating insight into an underrated and incredible group, and reminds us that family is forever – whether biological or not.