The 5 Browns: Digging through the Darkness
Shocking Documentary Reveals Classical Prodigies Abused by Dad
The 5 Browns is a musical quintet composed of siblings born in Houston, Texas between 1979 and 1986, all of whom started studying classical piano at an early age. In 1991, they moved to Utah where they were home-schooled. The promising prodigies eventually came to the attention of Juilliard which made the unusual gesture of enrolling them all to the exclusive conservatory simultaneously.
Desirae, Deondra, Gregory, Melody and Ryan skyrocketed to fame in the wake of a profile in the New York Times which led to further coverage in People Magazine and other popular periodicals as well as to appearances on Oprah, 60 Minutes and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Meanwhile, they began releasing albums, three of which reached No. 1 on the Classical charts.
Managed by their parents, Keith and Lisa, The 5 Browns went on numerous tours around the world where they would do charity events prior to performing in prominent concert halls. Between mom picking their repertoire and dad overscheduling them, the music wasn’t fun anymore and the kids found themselves putting on fake faces on stage.
But far worse was the fact that Keith had been sexually abusing his daughters for years. In 2007, the devastated girls learned about each other and summoned the courage to confront him about the incest. But he failed to exhibit any contrition. Instead, he started representing some aspiring female teen musicians.
Alarmed, Desirae, Deondra and Melody decided to report their father to the police. Keith was arrested, pled guilty to child sex abuse, and is currently serving a sentence of 10 years to life.
When publicized, the tragic revelations shocked the fans of The 5 Browns, given their previously wholesome, happy family image. However, being repeatedly sexually abused by their dad understandably left the girls traumatized, with the stress even causing one to go blind in an eye.
To their credit, Desirae and Deondra are now working with N.Y. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to extend the statute of limitations for child sex abuse victims. And they have created a not-profit organization called The Foundation for Survivors of Abuse.
All of the above is chronicled in engaging fashion in The 5 Browns: Digging through the Darkness. The revealing documentary marks the latest offering from director Ben Niles who figured out how to handle a very difficult subject with just the right balance of probing and sensitivity.
A moving tale of survival that’s timely, too, given the emergence of the #MeToo movement.
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Running time: 100 minutes
Production Company: Plow Productions
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening Feb. 1, 2019
Miss Bala (PG-13 for violence, profanity, sexuality, drug use and mature themes) English language remake of the 2011 Mexican action thriller about a makeup artist from L.A. (Gina Rodriguez) forced to survive by her wits south of the border after being kidnapped by a drug cartel while visiting her BFF (Cristina Rodlo) in Tijuana. With Anthony Mackie, Ismael Cruz Cordova and Thomas Dekker.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
Arctic (PG-13 for profanity and bloody images) Tale of survival about a man (Mads Mikkelsen) stranded near the North Pole who must decide between remaining with the helicopter wreckage and embarking on a perilous trek back to civilization across the frozen tundra. With Maria Thelma Smaradottir.
The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story (PG-13 for mature themes and disturbing images) Stephen Baldwin plays the title character in this fact-based drama, set in rural India in the late Nineties, about an Australian missionary burned alive while caring for and converting lepers to Christianity. Featuring Sharman Joshi, Shari Rigby and Manoj Mishra.
Piercing (R for profanity, nudity, bizarre violence and deviant sexuality) Horror comedy, adapted from Ryu Murakami’s novel of the same name about a family man (Christopher Abbott) who decides to indulge a dark impulse while on a business trip by murdering a call girl (Mia Wasikowska) in his hotel room. Cast includes Laia Costa, Wendell Pierce and Marin Ireland.
Velvet Buzzsaw (R for profanity, sexuality, nudity, violence and drug use) Suspense thriller, set in L.A., about a supernatural force that exacts revenge on the greedy purchasers of high-priced paintings by a mysterious, unknown artist. Ensemble includes Jake Gyllenhaal, John Malkovich, Toni Collette, Rene Russo, Daveed Diggs and Billy Magnussen.
The Wild Pear Tree (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama about an aspiring writer (Dogu Demirkol) who returns home to his tiny village from Istanbul after graduating from college only to find himself forced to deal with his father’s (Murat Cemcir) gambling debts. With Hazar Erguclu, Serkan Keskin and Bennu Yildirimlar. (In Turkish with subtitles.)
This Week’s DVD Releases
Top Ten DVD List for Jan. 22, 2019
- The Hate You Give
- I Am Not a Witch
- First Man
- Fuller House: The Complete Third Season
- Johnny English Strikes Again
- Best Friends: Volume 1 + Volume 2
- Killjoys: Season Four
- The Wandering Muse
- Here and Now
- American Renegades