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This poignant documentary explores the legacy left by three brothers at the forefront of the union laborers movement. Working essentially their entire lives to reverse social injustices in the workplace, the Reuther brothers (Walter, Victor and Roy) are unsung heroes who deserve this much-needed magnifying lens on their storied history.
Walter Reuther, the oldest of the three, was notably the most well-known brother due to his vibrant and boisterous public persona. As such, the doc focuses a great deal of attention on him and his accomplishments. Growing up in the dominating years of the auto production industry, the brothers originally fought for auto workers’ rights to assemble a union. Truly pioneers of their era, the Reuthers helped establish a series of underground labor unions throughout the country — primarily in the auto industry, which happened to employ a good portion of the country at the time.
Despite being directed by Victor Reuther’s grandson, the film manages to remain fairly unbiased. Of course, establishing unions back in the 1940s didn’t come without severe backlash from the companies themselves, the likes of which included extreme acts of violence, intimidation and even murder. Despite risking their lives, the Reuther brothers fought for the common worker not only in the auto industry but other industries where workers were displaced and unorganized as well.
“Brothers on the Line” is a well-deserved look back at a trio of true American heroes. The selfless actions of these brothers extends far beyond just unions of today. The Reuthers fought for social equality at a time in which African Americans and women were being displaced as second-class citizens. Walter Reuther, in particular, stood alongside, and worked closely with, such prominent figures as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Kennedy family, and Lyndon Johnson — all of which is explored in great detail in the film.
In the tradition of classic storytelling, “Brothers on the Line” does a wonderful job of vivid storytelling using a variety of different techniques. Acquiring the likes of Martin Sheen as narrator is just one such example. The film also uses a variety of different stock footage from the UAW (United Auto Workers), archival interviews of Victor Reuther, personal family photos, interviews with a slew of different historians and ex-union laborers and countless amount of personal stories that truly bring the film to life.
All in all, “Brothers on the Line” is a prideful documentary that will resonate profoundly with every American. When it comes to the plight of the working class, nothing speaks to us greater than the role of the unsung hero — in this case, three brothers who stood up for the voiceless despite it being the unpopular decision at the time. “Brothers on the Line” will leave you feeling inspired. Truly, this is a highlight of the 2012 Indianapolis International Film Festival.