BIG THUMBS UP DOCUMENTARY REVIEW RATING!
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.