Review: ‘7 Brothers’

Sebastian Winkels' debut feature docu is a cinematically stripped-down oral history from close-knit siblings who grew up in West German coal mining center Mulheim during tumultuous times -- the eldest born 1929, the youngest in 1945. Possible further fest gigs aside, exposure will likely be limited to homefront tube.

Sebastian Winkels’ debut feature docu “7 Brothers” is a cinematically stripped-down oral history from close-knit siblings who grew up in West German coal mining center Mulheim during tumultuous times — the eldest born 1929, the youngest in 1945. To the extent that other people’s family dynamics are fascinating to suss out, this is a reasonably absorbing watch. Personal insights and stories aren’t so remarkable or emotionally intense as one might hope, however. Possible further fest gigs aside, exposure will likely be limited to homefront tube.

On a stark black soundstage, the Bros. Hufschmidt introduce themselves — they’re heard only separately here, never in dialogue — then are intercut musing on differing relationships with each other in intertitled chapters. Docu grows more interesting once it chronicles the war years: Eldest boys were evacuated as far afield as Poland and Slovakia, while dad was a volunteer Nazi soldier (fact that bothered his sons for years after). Miraculously, the entire family survived intact. Despite disparate adult paths (from actor and composer to corporate exec, baker and minister), plus junior sib Jorgen’s lingering chip-on-shoulder, brothers still personify familial closeness. Tech package is sleek, editing deft.

7 Brothers

Germany

Production

A ZDF Enterprises release of a Piffl Median Film and Credofilm presentation. Produced by Susann Schmink, Jorg Trentmann. Directed by Sebastian Winkels.

Crew

Camera (color, HD-to-35mm), Isabelle Casez; editor, Valerie Smith. Reviewed at Berlin & Beyond Festival, San Francisco, Jan. 10, 2004. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Klaus, Hannes, Wolfgang, Dieter, Volker, Hartmut and Jochen Hufschmidt.
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