Two Sons

Two Sons

Brian Wertheim and Jacob Brooks are two story-tellers with diverse backgrounds. Bringing together their love of visual art and sound, they formed the studio Two Sons. We recently sat down with Brian to discuss their latest project.

TN
Tell us a bit about the project and why you felt compelled to do it.

BW
I visited Egypt for the first time about three years ago. At the time I’d been working on a documentary in Jerusalem about the conflict over there. I knew Cairo was one of the foremost cities in the Islamic world and wanted to experience it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Egypt is a much larger country than Israel/Palestine and there’s no way I could have been prepared for it. It was a pretty confronting trip because I’d spent all my time focusing on the conflict between Jews and Arabs. After visiting Cairo I realized that the Middle East is impossibly complicated – far more than I knew. The more you learn about the politics of the Middle East the more things can feel pretty hopeless. But the more I learn about Egypt the more I realize there are good things happening in the Middle East, we just don’t hear about them. I think I feel compelled to help tell some of the good stories in Egypt because people need hope – and there is a counter-narrative that is full of hope. The idea behind the project is to give light to a few of these stories through a series of short documentary "vignettes" set in Egypt.

TN 
The idea of the "counter-narrative" is very cool—bringing to light something other than the conflict that we're all accustom to reading about. Judging by some of the subjects in the photographs the people look generally happy and always have a kind smile, I wonder if you get this sense positivity when you first meet them in person, or is this put on because you're taking their photograph?

BW 
I'd credit some of the smiles to the charm and professionalism of my friend Jake (who took all of those pictures). But by and large Egyptians have a reputation for being incredibly hospitable people. I've never been invited into the home of so many strangers as when I've been in Egypt—it's a humbling and rewarding experience to be treated as guest of honor when you've done nothing to deserve it. Some of my friends who travel all around the Middle East say that Egyptians are their "favorite Arabs." We started the Instagram as an experiment that'll hopefully just point people to the focus of our efforts, which is the short films. Also I'm not sure I can take credit for the term "counter-narrative." I think I heard it first from my friend Salomon, who's an awesome filmmaker based in NYC.

TN 
Tell us about the short films and what we can expect to see. I understand that your desire is to shed light on the "good stories"... how do you go about finding people with these types stories?

BW 
I guess you could say some of the stories found us. Sometimes you don't realize what's right under your nose! We were hosted by some incredible people on our trip to Egypt last May. But the adventure of documentaries is that you don't really know the full story until you come home and start editing. Tomorrow morning I fly to Cairo, so we'll see what happens this time around.

Some of the stories we want to tell have a setting but don't have characters yet. In all of the films we want to maintain a theme of hope—I realize hope almost sounds too simple—but I think that's actually the power in it. The media is peddling so much fear, but no one is giving a platform to the positive stories. We need more stories that lift people's heads, leave them feeling empowered to live life no matter the circumstances around them. I think I'm learning that the story of Egypt is bigger than itself... it's a place full of people who are not only relatable to you and I, but can actually inspire us to live more meaningful lives. 

TN
What’s your plan for the release of this documentary, and who do you hope will see it? Are there any important dates we should know about?

BW
Our target audience is Westerners. It's really a passion project, so we don't have a release plan.  Hopefully things like Vimeo and social media will enable us to reach more people than we normally could. I've always wanted this project to be "bite-size" enough for someone to stumble upon it on Twitter and actually get inspired by the stories. No dates quite yet, since we haven't finished shooting!

TN
Awesome man, well good luck to you guys we can't wait to see the result!

 

Published on June 05, 2015

Images by Jacob Brooks