Review: Two Brothers


Insightful, candid, honest and absolutely groundbreaking, this documentary reveals two brothers’ challenges, triumphs and personal growth through 5000 days. When they are young they are in conflict. Luke says about Sam, “I don’t like him.” But as time and life events accumulate, Luke and Sam acknowledge their personal weaknesses and vulnerabilities. With these transitions there appears a parallel trajectory in their own personal growth and fulfillment.

For 13 years Luke and Sam Nelson are asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”; What is the most difficult thing about your relationship with your brother?”; “What do you really care about?”; and “What is the most important thing to you in your world?”

They reflect on what kind of person they want to be, what their goals are, what is important to them and what their relationship to each other is like. Running for school office, playing football and being caught in a devastating Chilean earthquake are all caught on camera.

It is this process of reflection and documentation that turns out to be a great benefit for Luke and Sam. While the audience is touched, transfixed and involved, the brothers are transformed.

The filmmaker, Rick Stevenson, holds a PhD from Oxford University, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, and a bachelor’s degree in history from Whitman College. Perhaps much that he has learned is synthesized in this 5000 Days Project. Economically Stevenson has qualified the project as a 502 (C) (3) through the Shoreline Historical Museum. Funds go toward production and scholarships for the children in the project. Intellectually the film is instructive as a longitudinal study in human development as well as an intervention plan that helps to promote greater self-awareness in young people.

While the 5000 Days Project was initially targeted for 60 to 100 students, it now encompasses over 190 kids living throughout the world. It has also spawned the Video Diary Project in the Shoreline (suburb of Seattle) School District where students commit to creating a similar record of themselves for six to eight years. The long-term plan is a website devoted to student-submitted stories other kids can access so that they can be supported in knowing they are not alone in their struggles with depression, anxiety, loneliness and identity issues.

Because Luke and Sam’s religious orientation has a major effect on their lives, Stevenson is candid in announcing that he is an evangelical Christian who married into a Mormon family. As a matter of fact, the first two subjects of his project’s sequence are his wife’s nephews. After seeing a 10-minute short on the Nelson boys, BYU helped fund the first segment of Stevenson’s project which can now be viewed in its entirety on the BYU website.

“Two Brothers” is ground-breaking in its focus on meaningful reflection and how that can affect positive personal growth through time.

It is being shown at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival and a free workshop on how to produce a similar project for your own family is being featured at the SIFF Film Center on May 20.

Another presentation, called “Making the Movie of Your Life,” by Stevenson and Professor Chap Clark will take place June 7, 2012, at 2 p.m. at Union Church Seattle – 415 Westlake Ave. North in Seattle.

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