The Brother from Another Planet

Director: John Sayles
Screenwriters: John Sayles

Institute History


The Brother from Another Planet manages to be simultaneously a send-up of 1950s alien-invasion films and a tongue-in-cheek commentary about life in contemporary Harlem. Based on a dream John Sayles had, the film was one of the first shot in Harlem with a largely black cast and crew.
The Brother crash-lands his spaceship in New York harbor and crawls ashore on Ellis Island in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Finding his way to Harlem, he wanders the streets trying to make sense of American life. He understands everyone but is mute, which makes him a sounding board for people he meets, a mirror of his new society. In his travels, he encounters barroom philosophers, tourists from the Midwest, a sultry black singer, a helpful social worker, and a southern white mother with a black child who is as alien to Harlem as he is. He has magical healing powers and earns money by touching video games to repair them.
The film's realistic vignettes about Harlem life are sprinkled with wry comic moments. One funny scene occurs in the local welfare office, where we overhear a woman say, "The one little piece of paper I don't have is the one they need." Sayles and David Strathairn play bounty hunters pursuing the Brother like couple of Blues Brothers from outer space.
Brother is one of several John Sayles films being restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in collaboration with Anarchists' Convention, Sayles's production company, in preparation for a theatrical release through IFC Films. UCLA completely restored the print from the original negative and used advanced imaging technology to replace missing material.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

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