Once in a while I find a documentary film that I can really sink my teeth into. Brother’s Keeper is one of those films. Produced and directed by Joe Burlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, this film documents the murder accusation and trial of Delbert Ward. Ward had been accused of the mercy killing of his older brother and roommate who lived in a shack with him and his other two brothers.
The film sheds light onto a small segment of society in central New York state. The brothers worked a farm and lived in the poorest of conditions. None of them were educated and were mainly illiterate. The defense of Delbert would focus on the possible coercion of a confession and Delbert’s illiteracy would be at issue. Other factors would include a number of forensic details that were disagreed upon amongst professionals.
Part of the amazing nature of the film is the sudden upwelling of support for Delbert and his brothers from the small farming community he lived in. Despite being seen as outsiders the Ward brothers gained the financial and moral support of a community who didn’t believe that one of these men could kill their brother.
The success of this documentary comes from several things. The editing is the first major piece since it makes this documentary flow well. Secondly, the interviews with the people on both sides adds to the credibility. The District Attorney and the defense attorney are both interviewed as well as people from all over the town. The trial footage also gives a great look at the testimony of medical experts.
Finally, the three brothers were all interviewed. Their interviews add weight to the innocence claims of Delbert. It’s also amazing to see the interaction they have in their dilapidated farmhouse where they’re cut off from the world.
I would suggest this film for anyone. The film is a unique look at the justice system, small community life, and illiteracy. I would give this 3.2 out of 5 stars.
Running Time: 104 minutes