• Festivals

Sundance 2021: (Mother Schmuckers) Interview with Harpo and Lenny Guit

The Guit brothers, Harpo and Lenny, are bringing their directorial debut movie, Mother Schmuckers, to the 2021 virtual edition of Sundance as the first ever Belgian entry to the famed Midnight Section devoted to genre and extreme cinema. Set in Brussels, the story follows two brothers, Issachar (Maxi Delmelle) and Zabulon (Harpo Guit – also co-director), both in their twenties, who have not quite emotionally evolved into manhood. Part Pink Flamingos and Dumb and Dumber (in the post-screening Q&A the young directors credited John Waters, Jerry Lewis and Adult Swim Alums Tim & Eric as direct inspirations), they lose their mothers beloved dog and have one day to find him or be kicked out of their home. Their misguided adventure takes them up against local gangs, an angry brothel owner and into a rather unusual dog-required after-hours party. We spoke to the Guits remotely.

Congratulations on being the first Belgian film to ever play the Midnight section.

HARPO: It’s crazy to have our film here at Sundance. It’s crazy because we did it less thinking about all of this and now we are in one of the biggest festivals and it’s absolutely incredible.

How surreal is it to unveil your film from thousands of miles away?

HARPO: Yes, it’s a little strange but it’s also part of the new era so we have to accept it.  And we can watch the film with our family and do all these things via Zoom and it’s a new way.

We have witnessed many sibling directing pairs, such as the Wachowski’s and the Coen’s. How do you like collaborating together?

LENNY: We can share everything; we can talk about everything and always have somebody on our side.

As the story centers on two brothers, how much of your own life seeped into the film?

LENNY: A lot of it is real, it’s like a documentary. We even used our real dog.

Talk about the man/child essence of the two main protagonists. We all know for many men, making that transition can be complicated. What were you exploring in their journey?

HARPO: We learned about child compartments in life, Step Brothers – a film like that, and we wanted to explore that and it’s always funny situations, to confront a character like that, to add to society, to add to an appearance.

Is that why you placed your mother working as a sex worker?

LENNY: We were looking to portray some person whose life was tough. It was kind of the toughest job. And her being that, that explained lots of things about them, about how they lived, how they acted, the responsibility, things like that. 

I couldn’t help but feel while watching the film that it had a nod to 1970s exploitation films. Was that a frame of reference for you?        

HARPO: Yes, well a frame of reference of this era in cinema in the States and also in France and in Italy, it’s like the best mood of pictures, where everything is sadness but it’s kind of good and always better.

How come Harpo got to be one of the main brothers? Lenny, did you not want the role?

LENNY: I lost at a game of heads or tails that day.

HARPO: I did the casting myself and then I watched it and saw my audition and said okay, you got the goods.

How did the two of you begin as filmmakers?

LENNY: When we were teenagers, we wanted to do films, so we began to do films with our friends. We had no money, and it was a real pleasure, so we considered to do it and it was natural for us to try to do a long feature. We had a chance to have money from the Federation of Belgium and so we went for it and even with a little money, we were so happy to do this movie.

You really push boundaries with the humor of the piece.

HARPO: We are always trying to take the things, even if it’s a dark subject, to a lighter humoristic side. We want to see everything, even the darkest things and how it can be funny and how we can see it through the eyes of the character in a funny way. So, they travel around all of these crazy situations but always with the childish department it’s funny, we hope it’s funny.