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Brother's Keeper
Brother's Keeper
Actors: Delbert Ward, Roscoe Ward, Lyman Ward, Walt Geisler, Ken Elmer
Directors: Bruce Sinofsky, Joe Berlinger
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2003     1hr 44min

On the morning of June 6, 1990, the village of Munnsville (pop. 499) was just another forgotten corner of rural America. But in the days and months that followed, this New York farming community would become the center of ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Delbert Ward, Roscoe Ward, Lyman Ward, Walt Geisler, Ken Elmer
Directors: Bruce Sinofsky, Joe Berlinger
Creators: Douglas Cooper, Richard Hissong, Bruce Sinofsky, Joe Berlinger, Nicholas Gottlieb
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 07/29/2003
Original Release Date: 09/09/1992
Theatrical Release Date: 09/09/1992
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 44min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 7
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

The three dirtiest people you'll ever fall in love with...
William Sommerwerck | Renton, WA USA | 08/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It's impossible to praise "Brother's Keeper" too much. Not only a superb documentary, it's one of the best movies of any genre I've seen. Even after a half-dozen viewings, it holds up.

"Brother's Keeper" is one of those rare films in which everything perfectly falls into place. It's not just the documentation of an odd murder trial in a forgotten part of the US, but a multi-leveled story about -- well, just about everything.

One of those many things is a cautionary tale of how the legal system can and will do _anything_ to convict _somebody_, whether or not a crime has been committed. It's a perfect real-life example of why The Police and the Prosecutors Cannot Be Trusted.

For me, the best thing about "Brother's Keeper" is the way a town of what "we" would consider moronic hicks displays a level of intelligence, common sense, and compassion that "educated" folk rarely, if ever, approach.

"Brother's Keeper" also has one of the most heart-rending scenes you'll ever see. Keep the Kleenex handy.

The DVD is an improvement over the LaserDisk. It's slightly sharper (though not much -- the source material is 16mm film) and the colors are brighter and less muddy. Contrary to some listings, this is neither a widescreen film, nor is the sound stereo.

I've seen "Brother's Keeper" rated variously as G or R (!!!), but it has no official MPAA rating. Parents concerned about what their children view should note that a live pig is butchered in graphic detail. There are also several scenes covering the police's invention of a mind-bogglingly preposterous "motive" for Delbert murdering William. For those who haven't seen the film, I won't reveal it, but it's something most parents would prefer not to discuss with pre-teens.

Absolutely, unreservedly recommended.

Note: In browsing the other reviews, I noted that some viewers tend to see what they want to see. Although it's not clear whether the Ward brothers are illiterate (even if there was no school to attend, it's hard to believe their parents didn't teach them to read and write), it is nevertheless true that they are NOT mentally defective, NOT the product of inbreeding, NOT "hicks", and NOT "stupid". (Delbert's low IQ is the result of a lack of education, not a lack of "intelligence".) Nor are they poor, or "outcasts" (though, as one member of the community comments, their body odor renders them unsuitable companions in a restaurant). If the Ward brothers have a problem, it's that they are naive in the ways of the world, which is hardly a reason for condemnation."
A dark, disturbing, yet riveting documentary
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 01/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This one of the most profoundly disturbing movies I have ever seen. The documentary details the events surrounding the trial of Delbert Ward for the alleged murder of his brother Bill, two of four elderly brothers living as near-hermits in a tiny shack near the rural township of Munnsville, New York. After an autopsy revealed that Bill might not have died under natural circumstances, Delbert was questioned and signed a confession, though he might not have been mentally competent to do so. Initially, the viewer responds to the sheer oddness of the Ward brothers, their way of life, their extraordinary social isolation, and the way of life they have carved for themselves, which was utterly unlike that of the rest of American society. At times, one feels one is taking a vacation trip along the edge of the abyss. Gradually, however, the film takes on far more nuanced and subtle aspects in relating their story to the town as a whole, and their growing support of one of their residents being judged and accused by outsiders.This is not a movie that clears up any mysteries or comes to any firm conclusions. Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky start off with a perplexing possible crime and end in a confusing fog. One doesn't know quite what to think (though a possible mercy killing of Bill, who was ill at the time of his death, seems a possibility). But the depth and power of the film is undeniable, and it unquestionably belongs on a short list of the best documentary films of recent decades."
Brothers Keeper
David Payne | Clinton, NY United States | 02/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is one of the most wonderful films I have ever seen. Why it was not given the academy award for best documentary the year of it's release I'll never know. This film will captivate you from begining to end. This is a sad yet masterfully told story of a simple people who by the death of a brother are propelled into the not so simple world of the judicial system. It is also a feel good story of a town who will do most anything to back their own. Im sure after seeing this Documentary you will be as moved as I was."
Cain And Abel May Have Met Again
B. Merritt | WWW.FILMREVIEWSTEW.COM, Pacific Grove, California | 12/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Making a myopic documentary can often be a death sentence. But delving into one community and one family can be done well if you don't lose focus. And thankfully directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (Paradise Lost and 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America) inherently realized this and kept their cameras firmly in the faces of the Ward family and their surrounding New York community.

Reeling from the alleged murder of 64-year-old Bill Ward by his brother Delbert, the Ward family and their neighbors circle their wagons in support of Delbert. From the get-go we're aware of the Ward brothers' minimal education and unhealthy lifestyle (their home is a stinking shack surrounded by a dairy farm). We're also privy to the fact that Bill was not a well man. His illness is never fully explained, but one could easily surmise cancer as a cause. Initially the story seems bent toward a mercy killing; Delbert smothering brother Bill one night to "put him out of his misery." But then homosexual incest rears up (none of the Ward brothers were married), as does animosity between the brothers.

Delbert initially confesses to the murder, but without legal representation present and without apparent knowledge of his rights (a pretty big mistake from a legal standpoint). Delbert is arrested but quickly posts bail thanks to the rural community rallying to his side. No one can believe that Delbert killed Bill. Indeed, Delbert confesses his innocence and states that the only reason he admitted to killing Bill was because he wanted to "get back home."

Receiving multiple nominations at film festivals across the globe in 1992, BROTHER'S KEEPER holds quite the moral quagmire for viewers. Some will view Delbert's confession as solid proof that he did it. Others may feel he was the victim of a legal system that is only interested in prosecuting the least of its citizens. Still others may believe Delbert to be guilty of a mercy killing and be happy at the outcome of the trial.

Regardless of ones legal or moral leanings, this story certainly is gripping in its honesty, showing both sides of the dilemma without flinching."