Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band

1 AUG 2020 — Film



New Zealand International Film Festival


100 mins



Canada 2019

The saga of The Band, whose iconic farewell concert was immortalised in The Last Waltz, continues to captivate in this new documentary shaped from the perspective of guitarist-songwriter Robbie Robertson, only one of two surviving members.

In a sense Robbie Robertson only has one story, but it’s a great one: how four Canadian rockers and an Arkansas drummer set out together in the early 1960s and wound up in the eye of that decade’s cultural hurricane. The story of The Band was the basis of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, and has been revisited by countless rock chroniclers since.

But the years since The Last Waltz have given it a sad coda, with several of Robertson’s bandmates falling to addictions and early deaths, and a bitter disagreement between Robbie and his southern confederate Levon Helm, who accused him of using The Band to further his own ambitions.

It’s hard not to see Once Were Brothers as Robertson’s response to Ain’t in It For My Health (NZIFF11), the unvarnished 2010 documentary that told the tale from Helm’s point of view. Robertson’s version is more magnanimous, yet one can’t help feeling he is, once again, furthering an agenda. And yet the whole thing is brought to life with a wealth of rare and unseen images, plus revealing interviews including the uproarious Ronnie Hawkins and the rarely seen Dominique Robertson, Robbie’s wife. There is also plenty of The Band’s music which, of course, sounds as great as ever. — Nick Bollinger

Presented in association with Magic Music.


Daniel Roher


Stephen Paniccia, Andrew Munger, Sam Sutherland, Lana Belle Mauro


Kiarash Sadigh


Eamonn O'Connor, Daniel Roher



Martin Scorsese

Bruce Springsteen

Eric Clapton

Ronnie Hawkins

Dominique Robertson

Van Morrison

Taj Mahal


Toronto 2019

DOC NYC 2019

Amsterdam Documentary 2019


Adult $18.50

Student $15.50

Senior $12.50

Multi-Trip Pass $77.50

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