Robbie Robertson Documentary to Premiere in Toronto

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The Band in the kitchen of “Big Pink,” Easter Sunday, West Saugerties, NY, 1968. Photo: © Elliott Landy, LandyVision Inc. (L-R) Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Robbie Robertson.

The world premiere of Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band will be the opening night gala presentation for the 44th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on Thursday, September 5, at Roy Thomson Hall, TIFF announced this week.

Directed by Daniel Roher (Ghosts of Our Forest) and executive produced by Martin Scorsese, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, the feature documentary follows Robertson from his early life in Toronto and on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve, in Southern Ontario, to the creation of legendary roots-rock group The Band.

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, says a festival press release, “blends rare archival footage, photography, iconic songs and interviews with some of Robertson’s friends and collaborators — including Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Peter Gabriel, Taj Mahal, Dominique Robertson, and Ronnie Hawkins — to explore the six-decade career of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer behind anthems like ‘The Weight,’ ‘Up on Cripple Creek’ and ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.'”

Robertson’s 2016 memoir is the basis for the documentary, about the legendary musician and founding member of the group.

The film is set to be released theatrically in Fall 2019 and on the Canadian on-demand subscription service, Crave, early next year. No word yet on other territories.

From the original May 9 announcement: “The film is a confessional, cautionary, and occasionally humorous tale of Robertson‘s young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music. It blends rare archival footage and interviews with many of Robertson’s friends and collaborators, including Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Scorsese, Taj Mahal, Peter Gabriel, David Geffen and Ronnie Hawkins, among others.

“I’m honoured to have my memoir, Testimony, made into a documentary film by such an extraordinarily talented creative team,” said Robertson, who turned 76 on July 5.

More from the announcement: A half-Mohawk, half-Jewish kid from Toronto, Robertson got his break at 16-years-old with Ronnie Hawkins’ The Hawks. He was Bob Dylan’s guitarist on the notorious 1966 “electric” world tour and as leader of The Band, collaborated on the ground-breaking Basement Tapes, inventing “Americana”, with songs like “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

The Band’s touring culminated with the seminal concert and film, The Last Waltz, directed by Scorsese.

Related: The Last Waltz – An Audience Member Revisits

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  1. JCB
    #1 JCB 6 July, 2019, 08:30

    Robbie is a well known jerk. When your former bandmates all trash you, you earned it.

    Reply this comment
    • Kelz
      Kelz 20 July, 2019, 00:24

      I totally agree, JCB. He ripped The Band off by claiming to have written most of their songs, getting royalties. If he was that good, why has he not written any more, since they broke up, Levon died, etc?

      Reply this comment

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