Robbie Robertson's "Once Were Brothers" Video Bridges the Past and Present

It's the acclaimed songwriter's first video in over two decades
Robbie Robertson's 'Once Were Brothers' Video Bridges the Past and Present
Photo: Silvia Grav
Robbie Robertson's "Once Were Brothers," which appeared on last year's solo album Sinematic, also inspired the title of the 2019 documentary that focused on himself and the Band. Ahead of the film receiving a wider release later this month, the revered Canadian songwriter has given the song the music video treatment.

The accompanying clip for the elegiac song was directed by Kevin Kerslake, known best for his work with '90s alt-rock icons Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots and more.

"I've admired Robbie for a long time and he never really hits a sour note," Kerslake said in a statement. "We talked a while ago, probably about 25 years ago about doing a music video but that didn't end up happening. It's nice that it came back around."

As the pair explained to Rolling Stone, Robertson's reflection of the song was very much rooted in the brotherhood of the band, while it reminded Kerslake of a story he had read about the Civil War. 

The finished product combines footage from the period, present-day shots of Robertson in his California studio, and snippets of former Cirque De Soleil acts twisting themselves in front of clips from Martin Scorsese's 1980 film Carny, which Robertson co-wrote, produced and co-starred in.

Kerslake then fed the footage through a Zoopraxiscope to achieve the zoetrope effect. He explains the process as follows:

For the video, we mimicked a process that was invented in the late 1800s by photographer/filmmaker/inventor Eadweard Muybridge who did motion studies, which is sort of a combination of still photography and motion pictures. The process involved shooting things at a very high speed, basically a bunch of different stills. We then made prints of everything that we shot, put them in a drum like a zoetrope which is an old antiquated viewing device that when the drum goes around and around you see all these sorts of loops almost like a picture book. There's a very antique, historic sensibility that fuels this video that is based on that work."

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band receives its wider theatrical release February 21. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September.