It doesn’t often happen that one finds an unexpected jewel of a film. It’s like striking gold in a coal mine.
Yesterday, I found such a jewel at the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s a film by Israeli Writer/Director Hargar Ben-Asher entitled Dead Women Walking.
The film deals with 8 women, who are within days, some within hours, of being put to death for their crimes. Sounds gruesome, right? Actually, more heartrending.
I must admit that, at first, I thought I was watching a real-life documentary and it was only until the second or third segment that, because of the excellent cinematographic style of David Stragmeister, I realized no documentarian could have captured the images of these women so closely and beautifully.
But, that was also a testament to the brilliant performances of every single actor in this film, from the eight women to their families and the prison staffs at the various institutions. Kudos to Casting Director Rich Delia.
The viewer can’t help but form an initial judgment of each woman as to whether she would deserve such a harsh punishment and the first three come across as sympathetic in various degrees. It was only the fourth, being driven from the prison to the death house, who seemed like someone you would never want to meet. She even claimed she had no heart. But, as she entered the death house, we discovered she had more heart than the men who drove her there.
And, it’s at this point, you realize the brilliance of Ben-Asher’s writing, which only gets better from there to the eighth story, which made a perfect ending to the film.
The only debatable “flaw” to this masterpiece was the ninth segment that I felt overstated the film’s point. But, it by no means ruined the experience.
While we know the crimes of these women were heinous, the film makes one consider whether death as opposed to rehabilitation would be more beneficial to society as a whole…whether the quality of mercy should triumph over vengeance.
Whichever viewpoint you have at the start of this film, it is worth your going through the challenge Dead Women Walking offers. I give the film 4.6 out of 5 and hope that a courageous distributor will get it into theaters so that you can have this worthwhile cinematic thrill.