Five Friends, the Movie

Creating ‘Quality Male Relationships’ in an age of Bros

by Boysen Hodgson

Love ya, bro.

These words come easily for many men. Uncommitted words that put little at risk, words now offered between men who barely know one another. Words that Seth Rogen might self-consciously mutter as the summit of his capacity for relationship in a film like The Green Hornet (we’ll assume here that Seth knows better, and is simply playing characters who typify the man-child mentality being discussed these days in the New York Times). We’re a culture of ‘bros’. It’s what nice guys say to one another to create a sense of camaraderie in a world of men largely lacking in community. ‘Bros’ are symptomatic of a culture of shallow promises and mistrust, of persona over personal vulnerability.

I think we are turning a corner as a culture, and this film shows it. Five Friends is a movie that inspires ‘bros’, ‘buds’ and ‘dudes’ to reach for something more in their relationships – with themselves and with each other.

Watch the trailer:

Five Friends is about men learning to commit to their friendships, to their personal growth, to moving beyond the culture of transactional manhood and into the world of ‘Quality Male Relationships’. In archetypal terms – it’s a story about Princes and Kings – about moving out of the self-serving narcissism of the Prince and into the sovereignty, sense of purpose, and knowledge of mortality that a King uses to build his relationships. It’s a story told across three generations of men examining what it means to be a father, a businessman, a mentor, a friend – willing to share the journey of manhood with intimacy despite a culture suspicious of close male friendships (especially between heterosexual men).

The movie takes us inside the friendships of Hank Mandel, who has spent a lifetime building close relationships, through business, through his marriage and child-rearing years, through his entrance into elderhood. It’s a series of vignettes, tied together by questions the film-maker (Erik Santiago) is facing as he prepares to welcome his first son into the world. How will I teach my son how to be a man? What does it take to build and maintain a deep quality male relationship? Where did we men learn that staying distant from one another was the ‘manly’ thing to do? How do we handle conflict?

When will we collectively learn that we don’t have to do it alone?

I love you.

Three terrifying words for many men. They are words of commitment, feeling, courage, vulnerability. They are words that come slowly to many men even in their primary romantic relationships. They are words that many men are afraid to say … even to themselves. This movie makes it clear how tragic a loss to our world this is. And it fits with my experience. I can’t imagine returning to a life of relationships with men, straight, gay, rich, poor, black and white where ‘I love you’ was no longer an option to share how I feel or to be blessed by another man. Life simply feels too short to be shackled by that kind of male socialization any longer.

My relationships with all people, men and women, are strengthened by my ability to be lovingly and deeply connected to men in friendships. The ManKind Project has been a primary motivation for developing this kind of male relationship for me, and for a lot of other men in the world. The process of going through a modern initiatory experience and sitting in a circle of men makes it clear without a doubt that I am not alone in what I feel, think or experience as a man, and that it is possible to trust men and have them for support and challenge in a way that builds me up for success in the world.

Five Friends is beautifully shot, simply and tastefully edited, funny, painful, poignant, and backed up with some great interviews from experts on masculinity, including Michael Kimmel. It’s a warm welcome home, in 70 minutes.

I watched the film the first time with my wife, on our sofa. When it was done, I immediately went and emailed the film-maker. I knew that I had to make a connection between the ManKind Project and Five Friends. My interactions with the men behind the film, Erik Santiago and Hank Mandel, have been as comfortable and open as the film itself. I believe this film will be useful in moving the discussion of male intimacy beyond most of what is offered in the media today. It is a bridge between what most men have experienced and what we know as men bonded by a life-changing shared journey.

Boysen and Hank

Hank Mandel and Boysen Hodgson

I saw Five Friends a second time in May, 2011 in Connecticut at a public screening at Billings Forge in a good sized crowd of men and women of all ages – and witnessed again its impact. It definitely makes some men squirm, but they also seem to feel the import of what they are seeing. Most women who see the film understand it immediately. The young men in the audience spoke up about how necessary this conversation is to men their age … and of their longing for connections across the generations. Hank answered questions on the film with humor, with humility and with an open heart for the praise that was shared.

I hope that Five Friends will soon become a regular part of the ManKind Project outreach efforts with public screenings and discussions. Hank brought along some workbooks to go along with the film, which provide a good introductory exploration on the importance of building quality male relationships. Hank is also offering work-shops on developing deeper male relationships.

When I reflect on my time in men’s groups – I see a strong opportunity to take this discussion even deeper into the role of ‘bonded male community’ in our culture. I can’t think of any men better to carry this message and share our gifts than the men of MKP. Be on the look-out for more information as the film is ready for distribution for public screenings. The film is now available for purchase at the Five Friends web site – and will soon be made more widely available with public screening licenses.

Thank you Erik and Hank. I’ll be seeing you. Visit for more information.



Author: Boysen Hodgson

Boysen Hodgson is the Communications Director for the ManKind Project USA, part of a global brotherhood of nonprofits conducting transformational initiation programs for men, and supporting a network of men’s groups serving over 10,000 men every week. He’s the author of “The New Macho,” a 21st century credo for the mature masculine. His mission is to transform culture by co-creating space for connection. He’s a dedicated husband and a proud papa.

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