There is a majority of people in the UK who, for certain crimes, would like to see a return of the death penalty according to YouGov. The current home secretary, Priti Patel, has said the same on Question time although she now resiles from this. People in favour of the penalty should watch this film.
It concerns a female warden (governor in UK parlance) who is in charge of a prison where people are executed. Directed by a woman, Chinonye Chukwu and starring Alfre Woodard it illustrates the tension of those in charge of actually carrying out the gruesome task. At the start of the film, the execution process is botched and it takes quite a while for the prisoner to die, painfully.
The film charts the tension the warden experiences: on the one hand the desire to be professional and to do a good job and on the other, the doubts about the process itself. This tension is reflected in her marriage where her husband leaves her for a while.
In Hollywood terms, it is quite unusual. Firstly, because women feature a lot in the making of it. Secondly, no background music which allows the natural tension to build. The camera is allowed to linger on certain scenes and there is no frantic scene changes which are so irritating in much drama these days. Lastly, the drama is carried along by Woodard’s expressions and face rather than just dialogue.
It is truly a powerful and quite unique film and makes the fundamental point that the process of executions damages all who are involved in it.
Amnesty is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. It does not deter and levels in violence in US states with the penalty is little different to those with it. Mistakes, which are frequent, cannot afterwards be rectified. The process, with appeals lasting years – the average in the US is 10 years – is expensive. It is applied unfairly with a disproportionate number of black people on death row. An examination of the trial of Kris Maharaj in Florida is also worth a read.
The group publishes a monthly report on the penalty around the world.
Meanwhile, the pace of executions in America continues with the Justice Dept. executing three people in four days, matching the total number the US government had conducted in the previous 3 decades (Washington Post). This is part of the ‘law and order’ promise by the President despite serious misgivings by many Americans about the fairness of the process and think it needs a complete overhaul.
The film is available on streaming services.
19 July 2020