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Film still from Into The Abyss (2011) 

One of the most talked about documentaries of the year, Werner Herzog’s film INTO THE ABYSS: A TALE OF DEATH, A TALE OF LIFE (2011) screened at this year’s Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival.

The film focuses on two prisoners in the USA who (during the filming) await death row. In the film, Herzog interviews inmates Michael Perry and Jason Burkett who murdered three people and as punishment they currently await trial for the death penalty. In questioning the prisoners, Herzog subliminally questions the death penalty itself and the justification of such an inhumane punishment. The film begins with Herzog telling Perry that while he cannot understand why he would ever want to kill another human being, he respects Perry as a human being and cannot judge him. So why, then, does the US penal system judge so heavily? Why, in this day and age within such a complex civilization, are such atrocious acts as the death penalty taking place?

‘An eye for an eye’, so the Bible says, but aren’t we supposed to have progressed from this? Isnt the point of punishment for a man to learn from his mistakes and live with the guilt of his actions for the rest of his days? Well, these are all the questions I began to ask myself while watching this sad tale. And if death for death is not the answer, or life in prison for a life taken is not the answer either (for neither punishment seems to rid America of crime and murder) then what is the answer? Well, as Jason Bukett spends the rest of his life in prison, his wife seems to be the only one with a viable answer. Jason’s now pregnant wife told Herzog the only answer for her is to give her and Jason's child as much love as humanly possible. ‘Love’, to a woman whose husband will spend his life in prison, is the only answer. Love may not be a pragmatic enough answer for the US government but it’s truly a start. 


-written by Vanessa McMahon


Director Werner Herzog 



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About Thessaloniki

Mcmahon Vanessa

Vanessa McMahon Covered the 13th and 14th, and 16th edition.
Catherine Esway has covered the 12th edition of Thessaloniki Documentary Festival
Cécile Rittweger covered the  11th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival

Christine Marik's reported from 49th Thessaloniki International Film Festival
Past coverage from the 10th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival by Bruno Chatelin.

Through its tributes, it focuses both on discovering filmmakers with a unique cinematic point of view, and on the internationally recognized for their contribution to documentary.

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