Brother Number One(2011)
Kiwi Olympian rower Rob Hamill goes to Cambodia to retrace the events that saw his brother, Kerry, caught, tortured and murdered by the Khmer Rouge in 1978. From award-winning documentarian Annie Goldson (An Island Calling).... More
"In 1978, when future Kiwi Olympian and transatlantic rowing champion Rob Hamill was 14, his older brother Kerry disappeared. Two years later the family learned from a newspaper report that their gentle, joyful number one son had been identified as a victim in a Cambodian death camp. Kerry had been on board his charter yacht Foxy Lady with two other young men when they anchored in Kampuchean waters. Hippie adventurers, they were unaware of the horrors unfolding onshore. Kerry was seized and tortured for two months at the Khmer Rouge slaughterhouse Tuol Sleng (S21). After signing an outlandish confession he was executed on the orders of the infamous Comrade Duch." (NZ International Film Festival 2011)Hide
BY Liam Maguren Flicks Writer
As narrator-protagonist Rob Hamill pointed out before a preview screening of Brother Number One, the vast public majority will know little of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge or Kerry Hamill’s untimely death. Undoubtedly, that ignorance will aid to the overall sense of horrific enlightenment for many who see this raw kiwi documentary.... More
The film essentially tells three stories: the murder of Kerry Hamill in a Cambodian death camp in 1978, the present-day trial of Comrade Duch, one of the pinnacle overseers of death camp S-21, and a rundown of the Khmer Rouge regime that sought the death of millions. Following Rob Hamill, the movie draws a great deal of sympathy through the kiwi Olympian’s struggle for answers without ever making it feel exploitive.
The first half of the film slowly meanders around the three topics, never really drawing a tight focus until the halfway mark. From there, it blazes a concise trail that chars the heart, divulging into the depravity of the regime, Rob’s 30-year frustration over the ambiguity of his brother’s demise and the subdued relief felt when answers begin to surface. A moment involving Kerry’s ‘confession’ hit all the points home.
Some moments of the film seem misplaced (a key aspect into Rob’s childhood is strangely placed near the end) and it could use a tad more insight on the Khmer Rouge. Despite those minor setbacks, Brother Number One draws attention to relatively unknown subject matter with little flash and great poignancy.Hide
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Brother Number One
BY thomasinverse nobody
This is a beautiful, restrained, funny, tender and just plain excellent piece of documentary storytelling. I cried towards the end - but it was a nice kind of weeping (unlike the time I watched 'The Notebook' which was manipulative crying because the press a tearful button) - this was the kind of weeping that only comes from really cathartically relating the characters more than you expect to do in a documentary. I hope this remains able to be seen by many!
BY Cleo nobody
Annie Goldson interweaves these three stories into a seamless whole that is both shocking but uplifting - it helps us understand. The personal story of the Hamill family - good-looking, outdoorsy, small town - becomes a nutshell of a whole country. If this is what they went through, imagine what it must have been like for Cambodia? As this question is asked, and Rob is gracious and seemingly unbitter enough to ask it, it is answered by the film's incorporation of the stories and voices of those who "naturally" appear in the film, as translators, survivors who may have met Kerry or even perpetrators, some of whom were child soldiers at the time of the genocide.
Rob has a commanding screen presence, a combination of Kiwi blokeish-ness and emotional vulnerability, which I, as a Kiwi woman, find really appealing - and I suspect Kiwi men would too. In appearing in war crimes tribunal which is trying 5 former Khmer Rouge for the murder of 2 million, Rob is on the world stage. Despite his evident strength and endurance (rowing the Atlantic was no small feat I'm sure), you can tell this is a real challenge. As Graeme Tuckett on National Radio too, says "Just go and see it . . it's a film full of empathy and compassion . . . I couldn't admire it more". I agree.Hide