Hot Docs: Mistaken For Strangers [2013, Tom Berninger]

mistaken for strangers

A rock documentary that’s not really quite one, Mistaken for Strangers is really a film about sibling dynamic/rivalries, the film making process and overcoming your very worst own enemies. We all know The National, the indie rock band from Cincinnati (now Brooklyn) that has taken the long road to success. Finally showing some mainstream success with 2010’s High Violet, the band seems to finally made its way to stadium sized crowds echelon of success. The leader of the band is Matt Berninger, the moody baritone singer of the group. He has a brother, ten years his junior and has this kinda Garden State what the hell am I doing with my life vibe to him. Through either love or pity, Matt invites him out to be a roadie for the band and in turn, Tom decides to make a documentary from it. Mistaken For Strangers is that documentary.

In the 90 minutes that follow, we will see a lot of things that would make a checklist of most rock docs, including

tour footage
backstage footage
band members goofing off
lots of shots in random cities
shots of band members sleeping

The thing that separates Mistaken For Strangers from the rest is the fact that it’s really not about the National, it’s actually about Tom Berninger. His relationship with his brother is clearly not strong (“I didn’t know you had never been to Europe” muses Matt in one scene) and as the tour progresses their relationship is pushed to the limits. Tom struggles to cope with his brother’s success and his own lack of direction/self control. There are blow ups and arguments and the documentary takes a surprising turn. In the end, what we get is an honest heartfelt film that deals with issues that most of us can identify with, only as an additional bonus, we get the benefit to peer into the lives of a beloved band as well.

Tue, Apr 30 9:15 PM @ The Royal Cinema
Thu, May 2 11:59 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Sun, May 5 4:00 PM @ Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.