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This documentary by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky details the murder trial of Delbert Ward. Delbert's of a family of 4 brothers (the other 3 being Roscoe, Lyman and William - Bill, for short), working as semi-literate farmers, and living together in isolation in a ramshackle shack, until William's death. The subsequent police investigation and medical examiner's autopsy suggested Bill may not have died from natural causes, and Delbert was arrested on charges of second-degree murder. Under questioning by police, Delbert appears to have waived his rights and signed a confession, but, it seems he might not have been competent, and was coerced into doing so. The film explores possible motives for the crime, from mercy-killing (Bill was ill at the time), to progressively more outré hypotheses. It also shows how residents of the rural community of Munnsville, NY rallied to the support of one of their own (residents previously considered the Wards as social outcasts), against what they ...Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
Picked by Entertainment Weekly magazine as one of the "50 Greatest Independent Films" in a special supplement devoted to independent films that was only distributed to subscribers in October 1997. See more »
Dedicated to the memory of William J. Ward (1925-1990) May you rest in peace See more »
This incursion into the private lives of rural people that turn public by exposition in the media had an eerie effect on me. It was a subjective reaction to a real story that has nothing sinister about it, but I was deeply distressed and somehow frightened by the realization of how some people still live isolated from the world, and in unhealthy conditions, while at the same time being in touch with a community that finds them eccentric but is ignorant of their dysfunctionality. The disturbing story of the four Ward brothers, farmers who lived like hermits in a shack until old age, is material for a Gothic novel or a psychological thriller. When one brother dies in 1990, and his younger brother Delbert is arrested for murder, the "Munnsville horror" begins, manipulated by the media while the community defends the accused. For their opera prima, directors Berlinger and Sinofsky spent more than a year with the case. The result was highly rewarding.
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