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Brother's Keeper (1992)

Delbert Ward , Roscoe Ward , Bruce Sinofsky , Joe Berlinger  |  NR |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Delbert Ward, Roscoe Ward, Lyman Ward, Walt Geisler, Ken Elmer
  • Directors: Bruce Sinofsky, Joe Berlinger
  • Producers: Bruce Sinofsky, Joe Berlinger, Nicholas Gottlieb
  • Format: Color, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: July 29, 2003
  • Run Time: 104 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008DDJ6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #156,799 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Brother's Keeper" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Deleted scenes
  • Never-before-seen short film: "The Wards Take Manhattan"
  • Photo gallery
  • Filmmaker bios

Editorial Reviews

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 one of the most celebrated and bi

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
67 of 75 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD
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.
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53 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dark, disturbing, yet riveting documentary January 24, 2004
Format:DVD
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.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brothers Keeper February 14, 2004
Format:DVD
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.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Am I my Brothers Keeper? January 31, 2005
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I am a resident of Central New York and this story was very well known to everybody in these parts.If your reading this you probally have read some of the other reviews so I`ll be brief.This is an incredible film,you are taken to a place that exists and people that are exactly what you see...its almost like travelling back to the turn of the century when you visit the Ward farm.The Ward brothers were indeed considered outsiders by some locals but they,ultimately,were a genuine thread that made up the fabric of this community and after Delbert is charged with his brothers murder and when the people sensed a railroading by a politically minded D.A.,they rally to Delbert`s defense.It is a unique look at small town America...from its citizens,its lifestyle and its politics.
The film is sometimes funny,disturbing and even uncomfortable at times but it is as powerful an experience as you could ever have.Like another documentary I have seen - Sunshine Hotel....about flophouses on the Bowery in New York City - it pulls no punches and hits hard....gritty and bold it will resonate long after its final credits have rolled.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cain And Abel May Have Met Again December 14, 2006
Format:DVD
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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange, and not that wonderful
I read some of the reviews, and the critics' quotes, and was expecting to like this strange documentary more. I just could not get into it. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Frederick Warren II
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and thought-provoking.
Even when this documentary becomes difficult to watch I couldn't look away. This is filmmaking at its most fundamental yet about as powerful as it gets. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Wine Me
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story about a family caught in a time warp
Even though the event happened several years ago its still reflective of a simpler time, almost a town that is frozen in time.
Published 19 days ago by Mark James
4.0 out of 5 stars Still a very contemporary problem
The story was most poignant and the message(s) hit hard and show that the strict letter of the law often needs to be tempered by an element of humanity. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars My Neighbors
The Ward boys lived down the road from where I grew up. The last of them passed away about a decade ago. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Cory Haflett
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad
This movie showed how far even a small-town prosecutor will go to hang a murder confession on his belt. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Real People Movie
This was full of back hills folks talking about how they see life. The clash of city versus the small town urban folks comes head to head when one of the Ward brothers is accused... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Judy kojadinovich
5.0 out of 5 stars ya
it was just a well done documentary all around. nice filming and great focus on the main characters. story line draws you in
Published 2 months ago by N. Fuentes
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
I would recommend this. The system and its powerful are not always right in how they get their confessions, as you will see in this video.
Published 2 months ago by Lan
4.0 out of 5 stars Good review
The main reason I liked it was it keep you in suspense as to whether the brother actually did the killing and whether he would be convicted or acquited. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Theodore D Wegener
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