Blood Sisters Hot Docs

I’ve always been very intrigued by the intense bond that sisters share; it’s depth, volatility, indescribable complexity. It is safe to say, then, that the bond between twin sisters magnifies these qualities exponentially.

While I have no sisters, I do have 2 brothers who happen to be fraternal twins. Growing up, I had a front row seat to the unique bond that twins have with one another. It is not like we often see in stories: they didn’t have their own language, they didn’t eschew all other relationships in the interest of their own bond, and that fact that they don’t look alike thwarted a lot of Parent Trap-style mischief they would have loved to have inflicted upon unsuspecting adults growing up.

Being a twin can be a blessing and a curse. You have a mirror of yourself constantly staring back at you, but as time passes it begins to become less and less familiar. Two people, born to the same parents, from the same womb, with the same opportunities and so many shared experiences, inevitably are faced with a conflict of identity as they approach adulthood. When twins begin to separate, go it alone, and live independent of each other, there is a constant, fluid, and often jarring set of growing pains that face these siblings beyond those that non-twins can truly ever comprehend.

BLOOD SISTERS examines a bond between twin sisters that is even closer than most sisters or twins could ever truly understand. Julia and Johana, born in Azerbaijan, fled to Sweden as children after surviving an unimaginable torture. Kidnapped by political rivals of their mother, they were locked in a cellar together at 9 years old for a month. Raped, beaten, and terrorized, these girls continue to weather the storm of pain which still scars them in their adult life. Inseparable and figuratively attached at the hip, their newest challenge becomes navigating the transition into adulthood.

Julia wants to be a nurse. She loves to dance, and dotes on her sister, who is struggling with the idea of separating from the safety of her twin’s presence. But they must separate; Johanna is leaving to study engineering. Julia is in a long-distance relationship with a man she intends to marry. The two put on brave faces, but the loss of their ever-present companions leads them through a difficult path of loneliness, conflict, sadness, and even danger. Julia, a hopeless romantic, believes that getting married and beginning her “adult” life will be much easier than it turns  out to be. Johanna pushes back against her sister settling down, struggling to accept that she will have to share her with her new husband.

“Boys are dream destroyers,” they often repeat to themselves.

Julia and Johanna find strength in each other at every turn, even when they are in the darkest moments of their relationship. But it is only through their separation and reunification that they can discover the strength that each one holds within themselves, independent of each other. BLOOD SISTERS is a beautifully restrained portrait of a truly unbreakable bond, two phoenixes rising from the ashes of their pain and giving themselves permission to truly live, separate but together.

BLOOD SISTERS plays at Hot Docs 2015 tomorrow, Saturday April 25th – 9:15pm at Innis Town Hall. It plays twice again at The Lightbox; on Monday April 27th – 2pm, and finally on Sunday May 3rd – 4:30pm (official website)