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Two nights at The Guild: documentary takes you on the road with The National

Love the music of The National and want to see what it's like behind the scenes...from the point of view of Tom Berninger (brother of lead singer Matt)? Don't know the music of The National but want to enjoy a humorous and heart-warming story of two brothers after the younger is hired by the older to be a roadie?

The brothers relax at the family home
The brothers relax at the family home
From film of Tom Berninger
The Guild Cinema (with a photoshopped marquee)
Lindsay Waite

"Mistaken for Strangers" (2013) is purported to be a look at the band as it performs in Europe. But actually, we are watching a film about brothers through the eyes of the insecure younger one. Looks like Matt is trying to get Tom out of the house and working on something productive. Tom brings along what looks like a fairly amateurish video camcorder with a vision: record the band's European tour and make a documentary. However, Tom's real job is to consist of things like making sure the food and booze are ready, getting those on the guest lists into the venues, and having plenty of towels in the dressing rooms.

Tom fails at some of these routine duties, to the chagrin of his brother and other crew and band members. He is downright annoying when he pushes his camcorder into the commotion that ensues before shows. Tom's questions to others frequently revolve around his brother or are clueless. He attempts to direct the band members, including his brother, to pose or look thoughtful. It is obvious that Tom's filmmaking experience is limited and his interviewing skills are nil.

Previous to Matt's invite, Tom lived at home with his parents in Cincinatti creating no-budget horror flicks and dabbling in painting and other graphic arts. Once on the road, he messes up the jobs he is assigned, gets reprimanded for being in the way, and ultimately becomes despondent, believing himself to be a total failure. Tom admits this to his own camera, face forward and honest.

Matt is alternatively annoyed and patient with Tom. Tom is not a success as a roadie but after the tour is over, Matt and his wife welcome Tom into their home so he can edit his footage. There is a method to Tom's editing madness. He posts color-coded index cards all over the wall (a creation in itself) and explains what he is doing to a sympathetic Matt.

There are spats between the brothers. Matt is angered when Tom leaves spilled cereal and milk on the bathroom floor. Later, Matt is incredulous when at the first screening of "Mistaken for Strangers" the film halts. He cannot believe that Tom didn't check to make sure his DVD of his rough cut was compatible with the projector.

Don't expect to hear much of the band's music. There are no long takes. The clips of actual performances are short, but more extensive segments of The National's music are part of the soundtrack.

Do expect to appreciate this honest portrayal of brothers who care for each other and a band with a unique indie rock sound.

"Mistaken for Strangers" will only be in Albuquerque for two screenings. It's premiere was a year ago at the Tribeca Film Festival. This Friday and Saturday at 10 PM (April 11 to 12) you can catch the film at The Guild Cinema, 3405 Central Avenue NE. All seats are $8. Check out the Guild's website or call for more information at (505) 255-1848.

If you can't get to the theater, the film is available for download on the "Mistaken for Strangers" website. Also, here is a link to The National's website which has clips of their music and more.

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