Brother's Keeper on 7/29

Discussion in 'DVD' started by TimJS, Jun 13, 2003.

  1. TimJS

    TimJS Second Unit

    Nov 25, 2001
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    The 10th anniversary special edition of Brother's Keeper is due out on 7/29. There is confirmation of the release (not the date) on the Docurama web site.

    DVD Planet is reporting the following special features:

    Cast/Crew Biographies
    Deleted Footage
    Production Notes
    Production Stills

  2. John_Lee

    John_Lee Supporting Actor

    Mar 31, 2000
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    Brother's Keeper was made by the same team that made 'Paradise Lost,' the tale of a group of goth kids blamed for the murder of three children in Arkansas. Keeper tells the tale of the Ward brothers, four brothers in their 50s and 60s who alone lived together in poverty on the family farm in rural New York. One morning, Bill Ward is found dead in the bed with his brother Delbert. When the examiner found evidence suggesting foul play, Delbert and the other brothers were interrogated, culminating in a confession by Delbert and corroboration by his brothers that he suffocated Bill.
    The confounding variable, and the source of the story/drama was the nature of the brothers, who appeared unschooled and possibly mentally disabled. A neighbor remarked that "they asked him if he waived his rights, but he wouldn't know waiving his rights from waving to a car passing by." The filmakers earn the surviving brothers' trust and document as the town rallys around them and as the trial approaches and culminates in the trial and verdict itself.
    Those who wish to stay surprised should turn away now, as it is impossible to comment further without revealing critical plot points.

    In the end, Delbert is acquitted. But what is more enlightening than the film itself is the director's commentary.
    In the course of the film, the story of the authorities is that the brothers offered up all details, . . how specifically Delbert smothered Bill, how the brother's agreed that Bill shouldn't have to go on in all his pain [he had numerous injuries and breathing problems], how Delbert had originally told his brothers he would shoot Bill in the head, but the brothers thought that would be too messy and suggested smothering instead.
    The story of the brothers was that all these details were handfed to them by the investigators and that they didn't understand most of what they were being told. And that Delbert only signed the confession [without reading it] because they told him he could go home if he did.
    The documentary is shown decidedly from the point of view of the brothers, catching the anger of neighbors and friends as they watched the authorities speaking on the news, giving anecdotes of how the brothers had a sweet nature, showing the authorities only in staged interviews in an office setting or in the courtroom, and achingly lingering on one of the brothers as he went into a physical breakdown under the cross examination of the prosecuting attorney.
    Throughout the director's commentary, the disdain for the authorities is express. They openly remark on how they hated what 'those [email protected]" did to these poor salt of the earth fellows. They joke about how officious the medical examiner came across. They revel in the deflation of the prosecuting attorney when the 'not guilty' verdict is announced.

    Now here's the kicker. For the first time in this 10th anniversary edition DVD, the directors let us know that both are convinced that Delbert did what he was accused of. But they couch their conviction in the belief that Delbert's upbringing and situation was so unique, our judicial system was not entitled to judge him as we judge others.

    Having just watched this, I feel as though I have been kicked in the gut. We've gone round and round here about the subtle spin in the documentary form that can either illuminate the otherwise inexpressable, . . . or turn truth to fiction. And while this offering doesn't have the profile to get the wide populace thinking further on this subject, it really lays out the distortionary power of 'reality.'
    Those prosecutors are were doing the best they could with the information they had. The examiner found evidence of foul play. The brothers confessed to the crime. But between the investigation and trial, the forces of the community and this film crew played upon our inherent distrust of authority, and facilitated these men in getting away with murder.
    I love documentaries, but this experience has cemented my cynicism in viewing them in a way I'll probably never recover from.

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