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Jewish Journal

Brothers In Arms

by Naomi Pfefferman

September 20, 2001 | 8:00 pm

Josh Kornbluth, 42, was depressed when Miramax shelved a film version of his Spalding Gray-like monologue, "Haiku Tunnel" several years ago. He resigned himself to life in the theater -- until his half-brother, Jacob, 28, made a radical suggestion: The brothers should make the movie themselves.

After two years of frenetic fundraising -- no easy task for the sons of an ardent Jewish communist -- they shot "Haiku Tunnel," a satire based on Josh's years as a struggling writer and office temp. The biggest challenge was making a movie about a passive-aggressive secretary (played by Josh) who keeps "forgetting" to mail important letters. "Our running joke on the set was 'Lights! Cameras! Inaction!'" says Jacob, who directed the movie, which opens in limited release this month.

It wasn't the first arduous journey the brothers had taken together. When Josh was 20 and Jacob 7, their father had a stroke and they traveled to Miami to visit their estranged grandparents. "Dad was paralyzed and brain damaged, and we were trying to hold on to who he had been by bonding with his parents -- but they rejected us," Josh told The Journal. He tried to shelter his little brother by turning the visit into a sightseeing trip.

Back home in Manhattan, Jacob acted out by shoplifting and breaking into neighbors' apartments, where he compulsively rearranged the furniture. By the time he was 18, both his parents were dead and he was working construction. "I had no idea what I was going to do with my life," he says. "My brother saved me."

In 1994, Jacob moved to San Francisco to live near Josh and began working with him. Now the Kornbluths are hoping that "Haiku Tunnel" -- which made People's 2001 "It" list -- will launch their filmmaking career.

Jacob insists it's no problem directing his big brother. "Josh is my best friend," he says.

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