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How the Safdie Bros made moves from directing indie to big budget films

The Safdie Brothers are auteurs we have never seen before.

With intensity and realism that is often hard to capture in quirky movies dripping with dark comedy, the Safdie Bros channel emotions in their viewers that is reminiscent of veteran directors.

The brothers (Joshua and Benjamin) frequently collaborate. Their most recent movie Good Time, a flick following Robert Pattinson on a crazy odyssey to save his brother from prison after a failed bank robbery, helped revitalize Pattinson’s career, as he is set to become the next Batman starting in 2021.

This movie also cemented the Safdie Brothers as brilliant young directors to be reckoned with. Their budgets moving forward will only increase, which naturally, means the movies will only get better and bigger in scope.

The Safdie Brothers are independent filmmakers based in New York City. Before Good Time, they directed Heaven Knows What, a movie based on Mad Love in New York City. The memoir written by Arielle Holmes is about her life as a homeless heroin addict living on the streets in New York City. Holmes also stars in the film.

This movie is the most realistic depiction of addiction I have ever seen, and the Safdies unique style is why. The unnerving atonal and arrhythmic music sets the tone, and the beautiful acting by Holmes and realistic dialogue between characters make you forget you’re actually watching a movie.

Instead of cutting away from a tough, depressing scene, the Safdie’s lean right into it. Also, the filmmakers do a great job of appealing to an audience’s emotion. After all, empathy is the thing that can sway one’s feelings more than anything.

Holmes and her love interests in Heaven Knows What are everyday people in the way they tell stories, look to grab a bite to eat, get in petty arguments, enjoy sex. But always present is that lingering reminder that they are going to need a fix.

With a combination of professional actors and actual homeless people living on the street as characters, Heaven Knows What is as raw of a movie as you will find.

The Safdie brothers grew up in New York, bouncing between their father’s home in Queens and their mother’s in Manhattan. Their father, Alberto, was a big film-enthusiast and this inspired the boys to start making films at a young age.

At Boston University, they co-founded the creative collective Red Bucket Films. Their troubled childhood as the kids of divorced parents has been an inspiration for their work.

Other films in the Safdie Brothers’ portfolio include a short film to promote Kate Spade Handbags called The Pleasure of Being RobbedDaddy Longlegs, a movie inspired by the boys’ childhood with their father, and Lenny Cooke, a documentary about high school basketball phenom Lenny Cooke, who was once ranked above Lebron James.

The Safdie Brothers’ next project, titled Uncut Gems, stars Adam Sandler and Lakeith Stanfield. It is a crime-comedy film inspired by their father’s time working in the Manhattan Diamond District and is set to release in September 2019.

For those of us who have seen Sorry To Bother You and Get Out, we know the acting prowess Stanfield possesses. Plus, Sandler is a much better actor than he gets credit for.


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The Safdie Brothers were given a much-increased budget for Uncut Gems, and honestly, it seems, now, the sky is the limit for them. The Brothers are 33 and 35, respectively, and look to be making movies for a long time moving forward.

They are not just directors, but auteurs, among the likes of the best in the business.