Toronto: Magnolia Pictures Nabs World Rights to Robbie Robertson Doc 'Once Were Brothers'

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band - Publicity - H 2019
David Gahr/Courtesy of TIFF

The deal comes ahead of the pic's world premiere Thursday night at TIFF.

Magnolia Pictures has picked up world rights to Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, the opening night film at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Directed by Daniel Roher and executive produced by Martin Scorsese, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, the documentary tells the story of a group of musicians — Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson — that went from backing Bob Dylan to becoming one of the most influential bands of its era. Magnolia is planning a theatrical release for early next year.

"Being a long time fan of The Band, Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band still held many surprises and information I didn't know,” Magnolia president Eamonn Bowles said Thursday in a statement.

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia executive vp Dori Begley and Magnolia senior vp acquisitions John Von Thaden with Endeavor Content on behalf of the filmmakers. Magnolia head of international sales Lorna Lee Torres and international sales manager Marie Zeniter will launch international sales in Toronto.

All international rights, excluding Canada, are available. After its TIFF bow, the indie documentary will premiere on the Crave streaming service in Canada.

The announcement of the worldwide sales deal came as Robertson, Roher and Imagine Entertainment's Howard and Grazer were holding a press conference Thursday at TIFF. During the presser. Robertson discussed why he was able to survive rock stardom with The Band while many of his bandmates succumbed to recklessness.

"I just thought, 'I'm going to get up every day and accept challenge and move forward.' We didn't understand alcoholism and addiction. No one referred to it back then like they do now," he said.

Added Robertson, "Today, when I look back on it, I feel sad that we didn't have the tools to help one another in a group. We probably did everything you're not supposed to do. There wasn't a support system. I carry a bit of sadness about that — I've lost three of my brothers in this group." (Hudson is the only other surviving member.)

Roher's documentary is inspired by Robertson's 2016 memoir, Testimony, which recounts his early life in Toronto and on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve to the creation of legendary roots-rock group The Band.

Roher brushed off any suggestion that he felt overawed when directing Once Were Brothers. "I have this legendary team surrounding me. I only really felt empowered, to be working with these people," he said of exec producers Scorsese, Howard and Grazer.