When Anthony J. Caruso wrote the film “Brotherly Love,” he knew it would resonate with an audience.
As production began, Caruso was tapped to direct the film, which he wasn’t planning on doing.
Then Caruso was cast as the lead.
“I did more than I had intended to do,” he says. “It takes a lot of mental preparation to wear so many hats. We did it for budgetary reasons. What makes the film work is that I surrounded myself with the best.”
The film follows Brother Vito Fortunato, played by Caruso, who must decide between becoming a brother or allowing himself to declare his love for Gabe, played by Derek Babb.
The film also stars Chance McKee and David Blackwell. It will be released Tuesday, Aug. 7, on streaming services.
The book was adapted from Salvatore Sapienza’s “Seventy Times Seven.”
“I met Sal at a book reading in West Hollywood,” Caruso says. “I talked to him afterwards, and I told him he should make it into a movie. He didn’t know how to write a screenplay. That’s when I stepped in and told him to do it.”
A few months later, Caruso was on his way to make his home in Austin, Texas, so the project sat in limbo for a while.
He got some short films under his belt before taking on the feature film.
“One of the most difficult things about the film was casting Gabe,” he says. “Getting an actor who was comfortable enough with some of the scenes was the key. We searched. Actors signed on and dropped out. Then we found Derek, who completely took the role to another level.”
The film has found success on the festival circuit.
It took home best picture at the Glitter Oklahoma LGBT Film Festival.
Caruso says the film has a strong message of being true to yourself.
“I grew up in a religious household,” he says. “My mom was evangelical, and my dad was Catholic. I identified with Vito in many ways. Though I never had any inclination to become a brother, I did see this as an opportunity to raise the discussion of being true to oneself. What I liked about the book is that Sal was practicing his own faith. I wanted to create a film that sparks a conversation. With suicide so high among gay and lesbian people, it’s a perfect time to get into this topic again.”
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