#MTLMoments: Mistaken for Strangers at Fantasia



    For two and a half weeks, Consequence of Sound’s Sasha Geffen will be exploring Montreal and its music scene, attending the mammoth three-day music festival Osheaga (featuring The Cure, Beck, New Order, Vampire Weekend and many more), and taking in the local culture. Follow her adventures here, or through the hashtag #MTLMoments on Instagram and Twitter, and visit Tourisme Montreal’s website to learn more about the city.

    Montreal in the summer makes you want to be everywhere at once. We’re doing so much and I can’t stop thinking about what we’re missing. While we dart around to different events, MEG shows are still firing off in venues around the city. Piknic happened again last Sunday. Fantasia’s still screening a full roster of films I’d love to see.


    We do end up back at Fantasia, this time at an auditorium inside one of Concordia University’s buildings. We go to see Mistaken for Strangers, the documentary filmed by Matt Berninger’s brother Tom that’s been gathering buzz at the limited festival screenings it’s had. Before the theater goes dark, the movie’s director and producer are introducing it in front of the screen. We had no idea they’d be there. We feel pretty lucky about it.


    Calling Mistaken for Strangers a “rockumentary” isn’t accurate, although it’s full of footage of The National undertaking a European tour. What started as amateur camcorder documentation of the band in Europe evolved into an excavation of how fame affects family, what failure means, and how you overcome it. Eight years Matt’s junior, Tom’s a metalhead and hobby filmmaker living in Ohio. His brother, the frontman of one of the most hyped rock bands in the States, asks him to come on tour as a roadie. Tom jumps at the opportunity and brings his camera along to make what he thinks will be a YouTube series released through The National’s website.

    But he’s not a good roadie. He’s not a good documentarian, either. He messes up backstage preparations. He shoves his camera in technicians’ faces while they’re trying to work. He asks bad interview questions. He ticks off his brother over and over again. He gets into shouting matches with everyone. He gets left behind by the band at a bar.

    Staring down his own inadequacy, Tom returns home to start filming confessional self-portraits and interviews with his parents. He’s trying to find an answer to that always itchy question: what am I good for? What can I do?


    The answer is Mistaken for Strangers itself, which, like Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation, plays as a record of the self-torture and self-creation that went into its own making. The movie’s full of the kind of pathos and bravery that makes you want to run up and thank whoever created it as soon as it’s over. Tom’s there, so we get to. He seems overwhelmed, still, that people are starting to respond to his work like they’ve responded to his brother’s. We hope he feels how we’re thankful for it.


    Previously on #MTLMoments: Sasha witnesses a drum circle and a rock show — specifically Wampire and Smith Westerns.

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