‘The 5 Browns’ Review: United by Music and Scarred by Sexual Abuse | Modern Society of USA

‘The 5 Browns’ Review: United by Music and Scarred by Sexual Abuse

‘The 5 Browns’ Review: United by Music and Scarred by Sexual Abuse

In this documentary about siblings in a classical music ensemble, one of the girls, then in her early teens, describes herself as “optimistic and happy.” The all-Americanness of the three sisters and two brothers who came to be known as the 5 Browns manifested itself in a variety of ways. Born in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and raised in Utah, they were avatars of well-scrubbed cheer and hard work. Home-schooled, each one practiced piano at all hours.

Their professional performances were both novel and impractical, playing five-piano arrangements of canonical classical music. Doing the sort of thing you don’t expect to see done at all, let alone done well, is also, arguably, very all-American.

“The 5 Browns,” directed by Ben Niles and expanding on a short he made two years ago, is subtitled “Digging Through The Darkness.” The Brown sisters — Desirae, Deondra and Melody — were sexually abused by their father, Keith, from girlhood into their teens.

The idea of the siblings performing together as a unit really came about only after a 2000 New York Times article about how all the children were attending Juilliard simultaneously. After the act got underway, Keith Brown became the business manager and put his children on a punishing schedule, keeping up the abuse for much of the time. Once the sisters revealed what was going on to one another, and to their brothers, Gregory and Ryan, there had to be a reckoning.

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