More than a crime documentary, the film focuses on a small rural community caught up in murder accusations concerning a family of farming brothers. The Ward brothers were four illiterate, simple and sweet country brothers living in a tiny dilapidated country home until one brother dies in bed of questionable circumstances. The inquiry that follows draws in the entire community and calls into question the style of living common to impoverished rural areas.
The film highlights the dim views and cultural misunderstandings held by modern outsiders when looking upon the unchanging life of a poor and poorly educated farmer from a different era. It’s also an incredibly sweet and sad story of old men lost amidst the politics of locals and outsiders alike, thrust into the public’s eye, and ill prepared to deal with the repercussions. Men who had spent an entire life content alone and working hard to survive. Men who understood land and soil and cattle and turkeys and each other. Simple men better left to themselves.
The articles give a great understanding into the brothers’ backstory within the community and of the events following the crime, providing better context to accompany the film.
“Delbert Ward, the youngest of the brothers, grew up poor: no indoor plumbing, no modern appliances, no phone, no Christmas tree, no birthday parties.
From early childhood, he slept in his clothes and shared a bed with his older brother Bill to stay warm. The boys worked the farm. With their father dead, they had no choice.”
“They kept a handful of sheep on 35 acres of grassy, roller-coaster hills. The boys were pushed through the system and dropped out of Stockbridge Valley Schools around age 16. Delbert twice was promoted on age. In his final year, he missed 135 days. As an adult, Delbert’s education level would be diagnosed to be third grade. If asked to read, he’d say he misplaced his glasses.”
“Roscoe, the oldest, was known to see women and go out drinking. Lyman, four years younger, grew up shy in the presence of outsiders; he wouldn’t even enter some restaurants or stores, staying outside while his brothers ate or shopped. He also went through alcoholic periods. Delbert generally walked in the shadow of Bill, who ran the family farm and, for the most part, the family.”
“The meaner kids wouldn’t let them sit on the bus,” he said. “They said they smelled too bad. But it was all because they were poor. Back then, if you were poor, you were nothing. And I can’t see where that’s changed.”
Quotes are from the linked articles.
p.s. I apologize for the trailer. It’s truly terrible and horribly misrepresentative of the film. Also, the trailer narrator is ridiculous. His tone doe not match up with the actual film at all. Awful. But unfortunately, there weren’t too many to choose from. Sorry!