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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 29th June 2018 > Blood Work

Blood Work

The sudden rise of sibling filmmakers and how to tell them apart




IT’S CHRISTMAS MORNING 1984, and two brothers, 8 and 10, impatiently tear at the wrapping paper on a large box. Inside? A Quasar video camera and VHS player deck. From then on, every weekend was dedicated to making movies. They copied the ones they loved—Rambo, The Road Warrior, Excalibur—and slowly developed a voice of their own.

That story belongs to filmmakers David and Nathan Zellner (aka the Zellner Brothers), whose new film, the darkly satirical Western Damsel, starring Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson, opens June 22. But the story is not unique: In the past decade, sibling filmmaking has exploded, with Mark and Jay Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed, The One I Love), Anthony and Joe Russo (Avengers: Infinity War), Matt and Ross Duffer (Stranger Things) and John and Drew Dowdle (Waco).

The trend began in 1984, with Joel and Ethan Coen’s Blood Simple. “Seeing their work,” says David, “made us think, Yeah, that’s doable.” The Coens were influential tonally as well; each of the subsequent sibling pairs tends to paint outside the lines, with varying degrees of eccentricity. The Coens’ 1987 comedy, Raising Arizona, in particular was a major influence on the Dowdles, and Jay Duplass calls it “the most inspired movie I’ve ever seen.”

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