Premiering in the Cineasti del presente section of the Locarno Film Festival, the documentary Brotherhood by Francesco Montagner has already drawn considerable interest. What is most striking, is that it doesn’t look like a documentary at all since the blend of all of the elements seem to belong more to the realm of fantasy than that of reality.

However, it’s all true. It’s the story of three brothers living in Bosnia, they are shepherds and their father is a radical Islamic militant, besides having played a role in the war that have scarred that region for years. The director first heard of this story during a TV reportage chronicling how these boys were living and growing up in an ancient world, subjugated by a domineering father, but also inevitably seduced by the future and the modernity. This arrives unexpectedly when the father gets arrested and the three brother rediscovers life. It’s a true story, and the three brothers are the real protagonists. Montagner explains: “Finding them was not easy, but when I finally found them and managed to establish a connection, they have accepted immediately to take part in the film. Convincing the father was more complicated, he was afraid we wanted him to be at the core of the film and at the beginning was very skeptical. He made himself available only when he understood that the focus was on his sons.”

The project has been in the making for six years, and the shooting went on for four. “A necessary span of time to get in tune with the family and get them used to my presence.” The camera in fact moves with great ease within the world of these three young shepherds, up to the point of becoming practically invisible, following step by step the small but significant changes of three lives in transformation. “What I wanted to make was a sort of coming of age. I hope I succeeded in it. I wanted to show the adolescence of these boys who grew up in an archaic society, regulated by the laws of the past; boys belonging to a disappearing world but still linked to the present. I’ve been always honest with them; I’ve always considered myself as a guest and I tried to look at them with a neutral eye. I didn’t want to teach anything, nor presenting any argument. I wanted to talk about people and tell a story, their story.”

As the story progresses, we realize the differences between the three boys. They take different paths, but their brotherhood still unites them. In the final scene, as one of the them is praying with his father, another one just gets lost in the field of his fantasy. “Going back to them will be interesting, maybe in a few years, to see how they changed. Everything can happen, the future is in their hands.” As the director highlights, the film has no argument, the post-war contradictions are always on the background, but the viewer is not asked to take sides. “All in all, this contradiction between ancient and modern for me, coming from the Venetian countryside, is something I’ve experienced since I was a child. My home region was one of the poorest in Italy, and then has become one of the richest. Traditions and ways of lfe have been gone forever, and the world is just different. In those boys I can see my own self of many years again, and I really believe they could teach us many things.”

The film is a coproduction between Czech Republich and Italy (Nutprodukce and Nefertiti Film with Rai Cinema) and is sold internationally by Deckert Distribution.