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Mistaken for Strangers

A tour doc with a difference with US band The National – the director is singer Matt’s little brother and sibling tension is beginning to show.


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  • Director Tom Berninger
  • Producers Matt Berninger, Carin Besser, Craig Charland
  • USA 2013
  • 75 mins
  • Production company American Mary Productions
  • Sales Monoduo Films

In 2010 critically acclaimed US band The National were embarking on their biggest tour to date. Needing extra help – and seeing an opportunity to spend time with his younger brother – lead singer Matt Berninger invited Tom to join the band as a tour assistant. As an aspiring filmmaker, Tom too saw an opportunity and grabbed his camera. As an outsider with the cheek and irreverence of a younger brother, Tom begins to make a mischievous portrait of the band. Neglecting his day job, though, the stresses of the tour only lead Tom to a sense of alienation from the group and his brother. With 200 hours of unedited live footage and interviews, Tom, with the passionate, loving support of his rock star older brother, turns the film’s attention onto himself to rediscover a sense of purpose. What emerges is at once rough edged, enigmatic and moving; a comedic, satirical portrait of a popular band famed for nuance and intensity, and a beautifully honest portrayal of brotherhood.

Stuart Brown

Director biography

Tom Berninger was born and raised in Cincinnati, USA. At an early age – and guided by his older brother, Matt – Tom discovered a love of movies, especially horror and action films. After attending film school at Montana State University he moved back to Cincinnati, where he continued to work on short films with his friends. Meanwhile, in New York, Matt’s band The National was getting more attention than ever. With their fifth album out, and the biggest tour of their career about to start, Matt asked Tom to come along as an assistant tour manager. Tom decided to bring his camera to make his most ambitious film to date, Mistaken for Strangers.

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