In January 1970, the then 21-year-old Michael Brody announced that he was renouncing his fortune and that he would distribute $25 million of his inheritance to those in need. He said that everyone who wants money should just write him a letter, and very soon this young man, who was immediately called a hippie millionaire, became a celebrity and a huge star. And it seemed that he wasn’t trumpeting for nothing, because he is the heir of a business magnate and the American king of margarine, and instantly not only did he receive thousands of letters, but on the same day a lot of people appeared in front of his house and office waiting for Brody to give them a gift money. Overnight, this completely unknown kid who points out that he dreamed of starting a trend among similar rich people, became a huge star.
But very soon cracks began to appear in his story and it turned out that it was not quite as it seemed at first. A great documentary about this man, whom history has since forgotten (Michael James Brody Jr. today, for example, does not have his own page on Wikipedia) was shot by Keith Maitland, who presented himself a few years earlier with the equally interesting animated documentary “Tower”. More than half a century after Brody’s announcement that he would share his fortune with the people, Maitland tried to find out who this eccentric really was and what his intentions were, and the result is this incredible, brilliantly thought-out, and ultimately tragic documentary.
From today’s perspective, everything that happened after Brody announced his plan can be seen as an interesting social experiment. When they heard that someone was handing out money, tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of Americans hoped that Brody’s dollars could change their lives. Most of these people hoped and believed that his money could make them happy and fulfill their lives, and Maitland and his team found a number of people who had sent letters to Brody half a century earlier, hoping that he would reply and send them something. And that part of the documentary is particularly emotional because many of these people have forgotten that they once sent those letters, the vast majority of which remained unopened because it was absolutely impossible to answer them all.
A day or two after Brody announced his plan, the situation started to get completely out of control and it became increasingly clear to us that this young man was not exactly mentally stable. Maitland gathered a great team of interlocutors and witnesses of the time, among them Brody’s wife Renee, whom he married just a few days before the announcement of his plan, as well as his bodyguard from that era, who recalled numerous crazy and completely absurd anecdotes, such as the one when they were in a helicopter headed for the White House to negotiate with Nixon to end the war in Vietnam. This documentary also captures the spirit of the times very well, and we understand how Brody spent practically his entire youth in a kind of golden bubble and was not even aware of how average Americans live and what his idea could actually trigger.
However, this documentary tries to find out what the intention behind Brody’s plan actually was. Was it a purely altruistic move in the spirit of the times when the hippie movement and the war in Vietnam were at their peak? or was it the move of an unhappy, lonely, attention-seeking young man who couldn’t be made happy by all the money in the world? Was it actually a cry for help? And just as fascinating, incredible and tragic is the story of a young man who overdosed on drugs and developed a wicked messianic complex, the story of unopened letters that mostly started with “Dear Mr. Brody” is equally interesting. We see how many of those people who wanted Brody’s money were simply greedy, but we also see how many really understood Brody’s mission as some higher goal that could change the world for the better and asked that the money be paid to those who need it.