A young woman in a red T-shirt moves to the thumping beats in a club. Her dancing grows ever wilder. She doesn’t want anybody to touch her; she is one with the rhythm. Only her face reveals her tears and her pain. Here she can find a release for all the sadness and helplessness she feels. Her terminally ill brother is lying at home in the living room. She doesn’t want him to see her despair. She wants to summon her strength for him.
CHERISH, a Dutch film by Fleur Bax, tells the stories of three women: an astronaut, a singer, and a sister. All three of them are struggling with different kinds of loss. The sister wants to enjoy her time with her brother as long as she still has him; she’s the only one who doesn’t treat him like a patient. As is common with siblings, they share secrets and memories of their childhood and feel comfortable around each other. One moment they’re teasing each other, the next they’re partying, drinking, and smoking together, and then they become children again, holding their shoes to their ears and pretending they’re telephones.
Jona and his sister in Raphaela Schmid’s FISH LIKE US also have such a connection. They haven’t seen each other in a long time; he’s a doctor in Africa, whereas she lives in Austria, where she took care of their sick mother. The two of them happen to meet in a chaotic Chinese restaurant after their mother’s death. At first the conversation falters; it seems as if they can no longer relate to each other. But then a children’s game gives them a way to do so. A chopstick soon becomes a microphone and an interview is simulated in which each fills the other in on the latest goings-on in their personal lives. As soon as they get closer to each other in this playful way, the ice is broken and they’re able to mourn their mother’s passing together.
FISH LIKE US by Raphaela Schmid.
CHERISH by Fleur Bax.
DEATH, DICTATES SILENCE by Javid Sina.
Moments like these are denied the Afghan siblings in DEATH, DICTATES SILENCE by Javid Sina. They, too, have lost their mother, but they’re not able to meet up; a video call is the only means they have of communicating. He lives as a refugee in Sweden, she in Iran. The two of them have very different ways of dealing with their loss; she shows her pain, while he nervously scratches the label off of a bottle. They’re unable to revive their childhood relationship. Is it just the physical distance between them, or are there other reasons, such as things in the past that were never resolved?
In some families, the relationship between sisters and brothers changes when one of them has to take on a “parenting” role. This throws everything off balance, and carefree youth is replaced by a burdensome sense of responsibility. This is what happens in REGIME CHANGE, which looks at the lives of Vanya and his autistic brother, Oleg. By day, Vanya is not only a brother but also a caregiver; at night, he works as an Uber driver to provide for the family. Yana Sad’s film vividly depicts how fond the two brothers are of each other, but also how draining this lifestyle is for Vanya. He feels downright trapped, both in their parents’ house and in the situation.
REGIME CHANGE by Yana Sad.
WHEN THE SUN SETS by Phumi Morare.
Lerato and her two siblings are also restricted in their freedom in WHEN THE SUN SETS by Phumi Morare. They live in apartheid South Africa, in Soweto, the largest township in Johannesburg. Lerato, a nurse, is responsible for her brother, Anele, and their tiny sister. Anele belongs to a liberation movement, which causes Lerato to worry incessantly. When Anele doesn’t come home from school one day, Lerato sets out to find him. Fearing more and more that he has been hauled off by the police or even killed, she searches the township on foot. There’s only one thought on her mind: she will bring her brother home again by any means necessary.
As different as the situations of the siblings in these films may be, the inseparable bond between them shapes their lives and (life) stories in a unique way.