The Kruger Brothers are well-known to bluegrass audiences for their many years of touring and recording in the US since emigrating from Switzerland in their youth. But their appeal crosses beyond the strictures of genre, both for their undeniable virtuosity on banjo and guitar, and their tremendous appeal as natural entertainers.
That’s what stood out about them to Gabriele Weber and Brigitte Bernhard, a pair of Swiss documentarians who have recently completed a film about the brothers, called Beautiful Nothing. Gabriele and Brigette work together in a design firm they run, Dames Don’t Care, and became enamored of the Krugers through their music.
Their first exposure was in Europe before Jens and Uwe Kruger came to the US. Brigette was introduced through her banjo teacher, who had been a student with Jens. She then met Jens in 2010 when he gave a banjo workshop in Switzerland, and the two became fast friends. Gabriele had seen the brothers in concert some years earlier and had enjoyed their music very much.
Working together, these two Dames came up with the idea of making a film about the personal side of the Kruger Brothers, a story conceived for Swiss audiences who may not be aware of the great success these native sons had achieved overseas. So they set to work in 2011 when the Krugers were touring in Europe, with their long time bass player Joel Landsberg. Gabriele and Brigette filmed several of their concerts, during a side trip with Jens to visit places they had lived as boys, and to the streets of Zurich where they first performed as teens, busking for whatever they could earn through tips.
In 2012 they came to the US and filmed some more with the brothers at their homes in North Wilkesboro, NC. The Dames had not created a template for the film, nor any sort of storyboard; they just started filming. So they needed to flesh out the concert footage with interviews, which were conducted during this trip to the US. Back in Switzerland they captured more interview footage with friends of the brothers, and a film began to take shape.
An in-process screening was held for family and friends of Gabriele and Brigette in November of 2014. Feedback from that showing led to some final edits, and the Dames returned to the US in July of this year for an official premiere in North Carolina. It has also been screened at three cinema theaters in Switzerland, but they had never made plans for any sort of widespread distribution.
The response to the premiere was overwhelming, and the Kruger Brothers asked about getting DVD copies to offer for sale at their live appearances. Those are not yet available, but Gabriele and Brigette have said that they will be happy to send copies along with an invoice to anyone who contacts them to request a DVD.
This trailer has been prepared to give some of the flavor of the film. Interviews were conducted in both English and Swiss/German, with alternate subtitles available.
Gabriele and Brigette say that this project especially conveys the joy that The Kruger Brothers share through their music, something that transcends language or musical style. If you’ve ever seen their live show, you know that these are ebullient and cheerful men, far more interested in spreading their love for music than impressing you with their skill and dexterity.
Hats off to Dames Don’t Care for committing it to film.