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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Brother's Keeper
Directed by Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky
IFC/Docurama 09/92 DVD/VHS Documentary
Not Rated

This film is an unusual documentary directed and produced by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. It revolves around the trial of Delbert Ward, an illiterate dairy farmer in Munnsville, New York, who is charged with suffocating his older brother Bill. Was it a mercy killing? The filmmakers cover the trial but are more interested in exploring the meaning of community in this rural town of 499 souls.

For years the townsfolk have looked askance at the Ward brothers who live in a squalid shack without running water or an indoor toilet. Yet when Delbert is charged, they rally around him raising $10,000 for his bail and hiring a lawyer to defend him. They metaphorically draw their wagons in a circle to fight off the state police and the media as dangerous outsiders who don't understand or appreciate them. Brother's Keeper offers a fascinating, albeit bizarre, look at the dynamics of community.

The 10th Anniversary Special edition DVD includes an audio commentary by directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky in which they talk about their relationship with the Ward brothers. A never-before-seen short film, "The Wards Take Manhattan," chronicles a visit by the brothers to New York during the period when the documentary was being edited.


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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