A chat with the director of Sisters Jessica Brunetto

(Jessica Brunetto)

Jessica Brunetto’s directorial debut Sisters is a colorfully striking and emotionally heart-wrenching depiction of sisterhood and death. 

In this short film —which premiered at SXSW and was recently screened at the Oscar-qualifying film festival HollyShorts —two estranged sisters are forced to confront each other while preparing for their ailing mother’s death. Their contrasting personalities collide, hidden secrets cause tension, and childish games expose their very adult struggles.

Reel 360 attended the Hollyshorts screening at the TCL Chinese Theater in the heart of Hollywood and chatted with Brunetto.

Reel 360 scanned the rooftop of Madame Tussauds all night searching for Brunetto in her purple-colored Annie Hall suit, wanting to talk about the polka-dotted colorful world of Sisters with the woman in a polka-dotted tie who created it.

After hours of no luck, Reel 360 began to exit the HollyShorts afterparty after speaking to many filmmakers and at the very last minute, spotted Brunetto in her Polka dot tie.

We immediately sat down next to her and asked, “Was your film inspired by Daisies?” Referring to the 1966 fantastical, feminine, and banned Czechoslovakian masterpiece by Vera Chytiolva.

Brunetto grinned and replied, “Actually, I hadn’t seen Daises before my short’s conception and completion, but  I finally saw it after the fact and  now that I know it, that’s such a compliment.”

Watch the trailer below:

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“I have two sisters, and I love Daises, so I immediately drew parallels.”

“I am still surprised every time I hear someone tell me how Sisters reminds them of their relationship with their siblings or parents. The power movies have to unite an audience is truly remarkable.”

“Isn’t it though… what inspired you then?”

Sisters was inspired by my oldest sister and brother-in-law providing home care for his ailing mother until her passing. The story of these sisters is a journey of breaking down and building yourself back up with the help of people who know you best and love you unconditionally. The concrete details of my older sister’s life mixed with the memories of our childhood helped me utilize examples of real humor, which gave the film an authenticity that I hope will resonate with all kinds of people.’

“What did you want to say with your work?’

“I am drawn to family relationships because they are one of the most universal topics. The best thing about working in comedy is you can tackle serious subject matters, but approach them in a playful manner. My main focus while making Sisters was to inject as much heart and humor as possible into the short.’

And Brunetto did just that.

With the use of vibrant primary colors, cocktails, red wine, dress-up, and games, this established editor (Broad City, Hacks) and first-time filmmaker lightheartedly tells a heavy story of the nuanced relationship between sisters navigating a grave situation.

This stylized color scheme paints a picture of the distance between girlhood and womanhood as the sisters sip cocktails, play dress up in their mother’s closet, and with neon color-coordinated posits these two grown women make a child-like game out of their inheritance.

While the film’s colors scheme is that of different shades of candy in a gumball machine, the filmmaker doesn’t do any sugar-coating in her exploration of sibling rivalry, death, inheritance, dysfunctional families, and broken dreams. With comedy, Brunetto manages to navigate these heavy subjects.

The film finds the sweetness in the bitterness of trauma that eventually evolves into sisterly bonding. Through a colorful and comedic lens we go on a journey of the nuances of female dynamics, the  competition between sisters, the dysfunction in family dynamics, the adult reality of childhood broken dreams, and the love underneath it all.

It was shockingly fun to watch such difficult subject matter. This Hollyshorts screening was the first in person screening for the film and Brunetto was over the moon confessing, “I am so grateful for Hollyshorts Festival because it gives shorts such an amazing venue to shine.

Seeing Sisters for the first time in a theatre was an unforgettable experience. It was so amazing to hear the audience laughing and I can’t believe it all happened in the heart of Hollywood. I was honored to be able to celebrate at the opening night party with my producers and crew who I love dearly.”

With a warm festival and audience reception, Brunetto is actively working on turning Sisters into her first feature film.

Megan Penn reports on the indie film market and anything that empowers women and underrepresented groups.