Brother's Keeper (1992)

"Extraordinary"

Brother's Keeper (1992) Review


Brilliant documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky collaborated for the first time on this enthralling documentary about the "Ward boys" of rural Munnsville, New York. The four Wards were farmers, living in the same run-down shack where they were born, some 60 years earlier.

And then one morning, Bill Ward didn't wake up. And the state decided that Delbert, who always slept beside his brother, had smothered him in the night, taking mercy on his ailing brother and simply killing him.

Brother's Keeper follows the trial of Delbert; which wouldn't have happened, it seems, had Delbert not signed a confession (despite his ability to barely read). The directors interview townsfolk, follow the media circus that quickly surrounds the trial, and how the Ward brothers' lives are turned upside down. Then there's the question: Did he do it? Delbert is quick to dismiss his "confession" as a frame job, but Berlinger and Sinofsky leave you with a flicker of doubt. Is Delbert really as dim as he seems? After all, the guy watches Jeopardy.

Endlessly fascinating, I found my stomach in my throat when I recently watched the new DVD release -- a decade after first seeing the film and knowing full well what the verdict was. The Docurama disc adds a number of extras, including a commentary from the directorial duo (they'd later sell out and direct the phenomenally bad Blair Witch 2), deleted scenes, a short film of the Ward boys in New York City (constituting the original ending of the film), and a trial that features Spalding Gray (and no footage from the film).

Highly recommended.



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