Each Thanksgiving, the Sunrise Theater offers a free showing of THE LAST WALTZ to a packed house of loyal fans of The Band. Now the Sunrise is making the new documentary film, ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, available for viewing via the Sunrise Virtual Theater. The documentary is heralded as a companion piece to The Last Waltz. “A lot of stories had mounted up over the years, and it reached a point where they were too heavy for me to carry around,” Robbie Robertson says. “The only way I could get some relief was to set some of them free.”
In 2011, the legendary guitarist, songwriter, composer and producer decided to tell the story of his remarkable life. Written over the course of five years, his 2016 memoir and subsequent documentary film chronicle the period from his upbringing on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario to his wild years touring with music giants to his role in The Band.
Because the film focuses on the period from The Band’s formation as The Hawks in the 1950s, it relies heavily on archival material. Filmmakers spent months on a treasure hunt for photos, film and video clips, and memorabilia from The Band’s past. Robertson gave access to his personal archives of photos and other memorabilia, including his storage locker where they found seven extremely rare negatives of Levon Helm and his crashed Jaguar.
Along with the never-before-seen archival materials and revealing firsthand recollections from Robertson himself, the documentary also features a wealth of contemporary interviews with musicians and recording professionals who worked closely with – or were inspired by – The Band over the years. They include such legendary artists as Ronnie Hawkins, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton and Van Morrison.
The period from the mid-1960s through the early 1970s was a time of cultural and political upheaval. It also produced some of the most enduring and influential rock music ever made. Robertson says he hopes audiences who see Once Were Brothers will come away with a better understanding of the extraordinary music this once-in-a-lifetime musical collaborative created.
The Sunrise Virtual Theater allows the viewer to watch new-release films in the comfort and safety of their homes during the theater’s temporary shutdown. Through collaborations with several studios, viewers or a viewing group can pay a $12 “ticket” price and watch the film via a computer or tablet. Access to films is available at SunriseTheater.com and the fee is split between the studios and the Sunrise. It’s a great way to see new release films and support the Sunrise Theater.