Stereotypes in the Short Film ‘Be My Brother’

Why desire to fit in when we can stand out, writes Sarah Cabucos.

Clay-Smith’s short film Be My Brother(2009) is certainly proving itself to be at the forefront of everyone’s planning list for short film viewing. Unwittingly entertaining on its own, this short film’s display of unpredictable qualities of the human being, blasts a resounding message of caution in falling into the trap of cultural assumptions in devaluing people with disabilities. Be My brother, Tropfest winner in 2009, commendably grasps the challenge of the intellectually disabled in trying to show their identity beyond the surface, gifting the viewer with a profound sentiment of the significance of belonging and fitting in with our family and in our community, even strangers at local bus stop.

The film successfully illustrates society’s prejudicial attitudes against people with intellectual disabilities, through the initial evasive reactions of Amanda (Megan Cooper), with her one-finger handshake, and Damien (Patrick Magee), with his glare of rejection, representing the majority of people who tend to misjudge the different others. Richard’s character (Gerard O’Dwyer) is reminiscent of Atticus Finch’s words in Harper Lee’s novel: ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.’ Clay-Smith’s Be My Brother has cleverly and entertainingly conveyed an encouraging message of acceptance, exemplifies hope in society that assumptions could be challenged and attitudes could be positively transformed.

However short, this film sends a loud message just as a full-length movie can, that human personality is more valuable than outside appearances. The old saying that some things may not be what they seem is being proven by this film through Richard’s ability to readily recite Shakespearean and classical texts – a metonymy of knowledge in itself. This symbolism in the film challenges the viewer to think twice because people with disabilities may not be that disable after all, perhaps even more knowledgeable, entertaining and loving than the so called ‘normal’ ones and thus, are also capable of belonging in society. Richard’s final embrace at the conclusion of the film is a surprising and enlightening twist in the plot for the audience displaying the rush we feel when those closest to us, accept us for who we truly are.

Although using an ordinary setting and situation, with the plot taking place at a bus stop with common people during an ordinary, clear day, this film teaches an extraordinary, parable-like narrative that conveys the message that valuing diverse identities in societies is essential in achieving a true sense of belonging. The complete transformation of Amanda and Damien from the pureness of heart and character of Richard is the trademark of the plot and characterisation of this film. His gregariousness when conversing with Amanda at the bus stop allowed Richard to truly show his unique personality and his charismatic identity. Likewise, Richard’s benevolence is shown again when he adequately responded to the need of Damien when he was not able to board the bus, reflecting the capability of people with disabilities when overcoming life’s pressure and challenges. The change in attitude of Damien was symbolised through the removal of the black hoodie, which had otherwise been a symbol of rejection in the way that the hoodie had prevented people from associating Damien’s face with Richard.

With its complementing music and cinematography, Be My Brother, is a seriously promising and simply entertaining film that all members of society can enjoy. This film effectively fits in the desire for a wholesome and worthy viewing. All boxes are ticked and ready to go.

How to reference this article?

Cabucos, S. (2020), ‘Stereotypes in the Short Film Be My Brother’, in, downloaded on today’s date.

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