In 2010, indie rock band The National were about to embark on the biggest tour of their career. After ten years as a band, and five critically acclaimed albums, they were finally enjoying wider recognition. Lead singer Matt Berninger invited his younger brother, Tom, to join the tour’s crew. A budding horror filmmaker, Tom – who is nine years younger than Matt and listens exclusively to metal – decided to bring his camera along. Tom’s at sea in the world of indie rock, and living in his brother’s shadow brings out the younger sibling in him – he drinks, complains, and struggles to balance his ambition with his tour responsibilities. However, his behaviour is not just the “acting out” of a reckless roadie. Instead, the brothers come face to face with some childhood hangups – Tom has forever felt like the support to Matt’s headlining act. Through interviews with the band, their management, and family, Berninger paints a bittersweet picture of his brotherly relationship, and also, himself, set against a hilarious backdrop of rock’n’roll cliches, celebrity culture and industry pretentions. Accurately described as “The funniest, most meta music movie since Spinal Tap”, you can’t help but gawp at the behaviour of almost everyone on screen. Mistaken for Strangers unpicks the blind adoration of hero worship that comes with being not only a rock star, but also an older brother. The result is a film about familial love, respect and making something of your own.
“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 BFI
“Mistaken for Strangers, a mystifying, hilarious and very much improvised investigation of the relationship between these two extremely different brothers. Cross-cutting intimate live footage with a first-hand glimpse into the fraying bond between the two Berningers, Tom may have made the first anti-music music film: a rock concert-turned-tribute to the universal frustrations and joys of being related.” Melbourne IFF