Russian director Alexander Zolotukhin has sky-high ambitions for “Brother in Every Inch,” which has its world premiere Feb. 13 in the Berlin Film Festival’s competitive Encounters section.
Zolotukhin’s sophomore feature is the story of twin brothers whose inseparable bond complicates their efforts to fulfill their shared dream of becoming air force pilots. The film is produced by Andrey Sigle and Mary Nazari for Proline Film. Paris-based Loco Films is repping the pic internationally.
The son of an air force pilot, Zolotukhin was granted rare access to a Russian military base to shoot “Brother in Every Inch,” filming real-life fighter planes and casting pilots and cadets as extras to bring a documentary-style verité to his film.
Pic was lensed by veteran Russian cinematographer Andrey Naydenov, who worked as DP on Andrei Konchalovsky’s Venice prize-winner “Dear Comrades!” Naydenov collaborated with military engineers to construct special camera cases that would allow him to capture the film’s high-octane flight scenes.
“I wanted to show the process of being a pilot as realistically as possible,” says Zolotukhin, whose feature debut, “A Russian Youth,” bowed in the Berlinale’s Forum strand in 2019.
Zolotukhin is a graduate of the directing workshop founded by Alexander Sokurov (“Russian Ark”), which has produced acclaimed, up-and-coming filmmakers including Cannes Un Certain Regard prize winners Kantemir Balagov (“Beanpole”) and Kira Kovalenko (“Unclenching the Fists”). Sokurov served as creative consultant on “Brother in Every Inch,” with production design done by Elena Zhukova, who worked on his Venice Golden Lion-winner “Faust.”
Zolotukhin credits the Russian auteur with teaching him “everything I know” about filmmaking, adding: “The most important thing we learned from Alexander in terms of filmmaking and life in general is how a filmmaker should behave. Be honest. Be straightforward. Don’t be afraid of anything and follow your dreams.”
It’s a lesson that underscores the human drama in “Brother in Every Inch,” which turns on two ambitious brothers in pursuit of a lifelong goal.
Zolotukhin cast two non-professional actors, Nikolay and Sergey Zhuravlev, in the lead roles. The brothers underwent intensive training to better understand the rigors of the Russian military academy, including real-life experience in practice flights.
The director considered himself fortunate to find twin brothers who seemed tailormade for their roles. It was “great luck,” too, to get the green light from Russian authorities to film on an active military base. “Until the very last moment, we could not tell if we would get this permission or not,” says Zolotukhin, who had to develop backup plans in case access was denied.
Despite a list of restrictions the crew had to closely adhere to throughout the shoot, Zolotukhin says he was ultimately given the go-ahead because his film goes beyond the usual cinematic tropes of swaggering soldiers: “Brother in Every Inch” is a military movie without a militaristic heart. “We wanted to show the soldiers, the pilots, as real human beings,” he says.