At the Death House Door

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Director: PETER GILBERT AND STEVEN JAMES
DIRECTOR & PRODUCER PRESENT

The documentary At the Death House Door doesn’t take a firm stance against the death penalty altogether, but it sure makes a strong case for exercising caution. It does this through the poignant, heart-rending story of Rev. Carroll Pickett, a soft-spoken Texas man who served for 13 years as chaplain at the notoriously execution-happy Huntsville Prison.

Here he counseled with 95 prisoners during their final hours, and the experience changed his life. Interwoven with Pickett’s general story is the specific case of Carlos De Luna, who was executed in 1989 for a murder he almost certainly did not commit. Pickett doubted the man’s guilt at the time, and subsequent investigations (including one by the Chicago Tribune chronicled in the film) have cast enough doubt to show that De Luna never should have been convicted, let alone executed. Steve James, whose Hoop Dreams is one of the most highly praised documentaries ever made, co-directed At the Death House Door with producer Peter Gilbert. Their touch is artistic but not pretentious, utilizing music (a haunting score by Leo Sidran) and other cinematic effects sparingly — just enough to elevate the film from public-television special to high art.

USA • 2008 • 98 MINUTES • DIRECTOR: PETER GILBERT AND STEVEN JAMES

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