Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1992. American Playhouse, Hand to Mouth Productions. Cinematography by James D. Cooper, Richard Hissong. Produced by Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky. Music by Molly Mason, Jay Ungar. Film Editing by Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky. Boston Film Critics Awards 1992. National Board of Review Awards 1992. New York Film Critics Awards 1992.
Landmark documentary that began the successful career of director Joe Berlinger. The Ward Brothers are four semi-literate dairy farmers in upstate New York who live in one small shack of a house, their squalid conditions frightening enough to make the women of Grey Gardens look like neat freaks by comparison. When William Ward dies, brother Delbert is put on trial for murder after he admits that he killed his ailing sibling in order to put him out of his misery. The court trial that ensues is a baffling moral muddle, with the competency of the defendant in question, not to mention the nature of the crime, the vulnerability of the facts, and the residents of Munnsville who come in great droves to his defence. Despite the fact that these brothers live as virtual outsiders in their hamlet of a town, the citizens who have known (and basically ignored) them for decades will not allow any of their own to be judged no matter how bizarre the facts are that the trial reveals (and when themes of incest are introduced, I dare your blood not to go cold). It’s a fascinating experience, one that has not withered with time in the years since it was made.