Film Review: Brother Number One

16:00, Mar 09 2012

Brother Number One (99 min)

Directed by Annie Goldson.

In 1978, New Zealander Kerry Hamill was captured by the Cambodian military of the Khmer Rouge regime. He was transported to the notorious S 21 prison, where along with thousands of others, he was almost certainly tortured, and then executed.

In 2009, the commander of that prison, ''Duch'', was put on trial. Rob Hamill, younger brother to Kerry, journeyed to Cambodia, to testify at the trial, and possibly to confront and question the man who had been responsible for the murder of his brother.

Brother Number One follows Rob as he travels around the country, trying to piece together what happened to Kerry in his last months of life, and also exploring what remains of the nightmare that engulfed Cambodia during the four years of the Khmer Rouge's rule.

I admire a skilful and insightful documentary more than any other type of film, and Brother Number One is a wonderful example. Director Annie Goldson (Punitive Damage) has a brilliant host and guide in Hamill. He is a genuine presence, honest, open, incapable of manipulation. We trust Hamill, we want him to find some peace, and we watch and listen avidly as he leads us through tragic and appalling events with real dignity.

Around Hamill's personal story, Goldson and her editors have skilfully and unobtrusively wound a larger story of Cambodian history. Assembled from what must have been hundreds of hours of footage and available archive material, Brother Number One is a film that has come to life in the editor's hands.

It moves, it speaks, and at its best, it entrances. You won't see many documentaries better than this, from any country, in any year.