Rob Hamill's struggle for his brother

More tears than ET

Last updated 15:00 07/03/2012
HARROWING: Olympian and rowing champion Rob Hamill in Phonm Penh's Genocide Musuem, the notorious former Khmer Rouge prison camp S-21 at Tuol Sleng.
HARROWING: Olympian and rowing champion Rob Hamill in Phonm Penh's Genocide Musuem, the notorious former Khmer Rouge prison camp S-21 at Tuol Sleng.

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What: Brother Number One.

Where: The Victoria cinema in Hamilton, from tomorrow. 

Take a piece of paper and on one side write the word "Blink" and on the other side "Breathe".

Right, now you are better prepared to watch Brother Number One.

It is a documentary about the torture and execution of Kiwi yachtie Kerry Hamill, eldest brother of champion rower Rob Hamill, and it's brilliant.

I was fortunate enough to catch a screening of the film in Hamilton on Sunday evening, and I wish I had been given those instructive words when handed my ticket.

Norman Mailer once said Truman Capote's seminal In Cold Blood was perfect, that there was not one word he would have added or taken out.

You will be thinking along the same lines when you walk out of Brother Number One. The editing is brilliant. It takes what could be an infuriatingly political or just too sentimental subject and turns it into the definite page-turner of documentaries – something that grabs you by the throat and engages you right from the opening seconds.

Brother Number One is about Rob Hamill's tireless – and at times harrowing – campaign on behalf of his brother Kerry, one of three international sailors slain after mistakenly sailing into waters of the then Kampuchea in 1978 and being captured by Pol Pot's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime.

Directed by Annie Goldson, the film follows Hamill as he testifies at the War Crimes Tribunal in Cambodia against Comrade Duch, who had overseen the torture and execution of his eldest brother in 1978.

Kerry Hamill, Canadian Stuart Glass, and Englishman John Dewhirst were seized after their yacht Foxy Lady strayed into the waters of then Kampuchea on the way to Bangkok. Glass was shot and killed on the yacht, and Hamill and Dewhirst were captured, tortured and slain.

The film also provides a range of historical context and the broader picture of mass Cambodian suffering under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime.

Take the tissues, and I mean that. You are going to get more tears from this than the director's cut of ET.

The film has been around for a while now; it was part of last year's New Zealand International Film Festival, but this is the first time it has been released for general viewing at a cinema.

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And you know that sometimes slightly annoying person in your circle of friends who always, always insists that you absolutely must see that film because you will just love it so much?

After Brother Number One, that is going to be you.

For more details and screening times see

- Waikato Times


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