The Brothers (Los Hermanos)
It would take a heart cold enough to reverse global warming not to be moved by the story of brotherhood, identity and the unifying power of music depicted in Los Hermanos, from co-directors Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider. Even though the documentary has the occasional tendency to run metaphors into the ground, the overall result is wholly endearing.
Separated by politics and about 103 miles of ocean, brothers Ilmar and Aldo Lòpez-Gàvilan are both virtuosos. Ilmar left Cuba to study violin in Moscow, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union and now lives in New Jersey. Aldo remained in Havana, where he continued his journey to becoming a classical pianist of great distinction. It’s not as though the brothers are forbidden from seeing each other, but an embargo that has existed in some form since the early 1960s has made it frustratingly difficult for these two astonishingly talented musicians to do something as simple as perform together.
The metaphor flogged into submission is that of the United States and Cuba, literally close but figuratively worlds apart. In case someone watching still didn’t quite get it, the feature utilises archive audio from Barack Obama, suggesting that the US and Cuba are like two brothers who have been estranged for many years. Although Ilmar and Aldo are far from estranged, they’ve been kept apart by the geopolitical machinations of numerous administrations on the US side, and Fidel Castro (followed by his brother Raúl) on the Cuban side. With necessarily convoluted travel plans, Ilmar returns home for a visit, a sequence which seems to only exist to allow the brothers to make vague commentary about their home country.
Los Hermanos truly finds its feet when Obama partially rescinds the US embargo against Cuba, making it infinitely more straightforward for Aldo to travel to the US and tour with his brother’s string quartet. In a move so blindingly simple that it should be mandatory for any musical documentary, the film does its audience the courtesy of naming the work being performed with an onscreen title card. Their music is nothing short of sublime and is wonderfully ever-present throughout the movie, with two brothers whose talent developed parallel to each other, but who had classical music hardwired into their DNA.
The Brothers (Los Hermanos) is released digitally on demand on 14th May 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Brothers (Los Hermanos) here: