LISTEN: A Brother’s Quest


October 13, 2015

Months before filmmaker Ken Dornstein’s older brother, David, died in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, he gave Ken a box of his journals. Jokingly, he called it Ken’s “inheritance.”

David, who was just 25 when he died, was an aspiring writer with an insatiable appetite for art and culture. As a doting older brother, he encouraged Ken to pursue great things. At 19, Ken looked-up to David, but often felt overwhelmed by his gestures.

“I felt a tremendous pressure. Like, I don’t know, maybe I’m not a great artist. Maybe I don’t want to make great art,” Ken recalls.

“Of course, the way it worked out was that he goes away and never comes back. And the joke of me getting his literary inheritance became a reality. Suddenly I was the keeper of every ambition that he had for these words, and what was I going to do with it?”

After years of putting it off, Ken decided he needed to work through his grief over the loss of David, often going to extraordinary lengths to do so. In this special-edition podcast, Ken shares personal stories about that journey, which took him everywhere from the crash site in Scotland, to Libya in search of those responsible for the attack. He also recounts his relationship with his brother, and why there might always be a little of David in the projects he pursues.

Music featured in this podcast by Jeremy Messersmith.

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