With his sophomore feature "Blue Valentine" a hit with critics and audiences alike, Derek Cianfrance's "lost" debut "Brother Tied" is now starting to draw some attention, particularly the story behind its critically acclaimed festival runs in 1998 and the film's subsequent disappearance.
Speaking to Indiewire, Cianfrance reveals a combination of factors that made any previous release an impossible uphill battle, including a lack of finishing funds -- about $300,000 is need to clear the collection of 1950's doo-wop songs on the soundtrack -- and no distribution offers, as well as the limited options offered for independent films in general. The director also adds that he only has a 35mm print of the feature which lies dormant in the basement of his father's home but if his manager Jamie Pantricof has anything to do with it, we may eventually see the feature earn a retrospective release.
“Whether it’s two years or 20 years, we’re going to want the ability to have access to ‘Brother Tied,’” says Patricof. “When we’re doing a retrospective of Derek’s work in the future, we don’t want to only have a VHS copy. Maybe Derek will want to go back in and put some new music on it and we’ll release it on iTunes. We just want to get the highest quality copy we can and then decide what we’re going to do with it.”
Some potential hurdles lie their path, with the aforementioned licensing costs, the need to "to prove ownership of the negative via some 12-year-old paperwork" and potential outstanding bills from the lab that "could be $5,000 or it could be $200,000." But with the VP from DuArt Films Labs (where the feature's negatives are being vaulted) optimistic about its potential transfer, Cianfrance, Patricof and Hunting Lane Films associates Katie McNeil and Jon Kanak seem to be on the right track.
So what's the story behind the film? "Brother Tied" is described as a "highly stylized black-and-white account of sibling rivalry" which premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival -- the same debut fest as fellow helmers Darren Aronofsky ("Pi") and Lisa Chodolenko ("High Art") -- and scored a run of festival accolades and critical acclaim. Here's the film's synopsis, courtesy of an official website for the pic.
'Brother Tied' is the story of a brotherhood by blood challenged by a brother of friendship. Cal and Aaron are two brothers who already strained relationship is pushed to the breaking when Cal befriends his African-American barber, Cassius. The two men attend Cassius' Christmas party; but when Aaron goads Cassius into a fight, Cal sides with his friend, not his brother. Ostracized by his mother and sibling, Cal becomes more deeply involved in his friendship with Cassius, who is similarly estranged from his family But when Christmas time rolls around again, Aaron strikes back, hurtling the three of them down a path of vengeance, redemption and tragic dissolution.
Like it can be for any developing artist, however, a recent view of the feature on a makeshift DVD proved quite the reflective, and slightly embarrassing, experience for Cianfrance. “It’s unbearable to watch, because it’s trying so hard to be cinematic in a show-offy way,” he says. “I was a little pretentious and I had a chip on my shoulder and I wanted to prove myself. But it marks a time in my life as a person and a filmmaker. It’s like a tattoo or a scar. And as you grow as a filmmaker, your work represents where you are as a person."
“Maybe we’ll be ready after ‘Blue Valentine’ or it’ll take some more films, but it would be nice to get ‘Brother Tied’ out there in the world.” After being gobsmacked by "Blue Valentine," we're fairly excited by the prospect of checking out Cianfrance's debut; fingers crossed things work out for Cianfrance, Patricof and company. Check out the trailer below: