KEVORKIAN is an in-depth look at Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the infamous right-to-die advocate. Filmmaker Matthew Galkin explores the full man as he follows the doctor on his last quest, a 2008 run for a seat in Congress, and goes back over a life that will leave a lasting impression on generations to come. Dr. Kevorkian died in 2011, at the age of 83. This film will be available as a VOD starting on January 15, 2013.
The take away from this documentary is to know when you’ve won. Jack Kevorkian reached a point in his career where he could legally perform assisted suicides. He claimed to have helped end the suffering of upwards to 130 individuals. However, that was not good enough for Dr. Kevorkian. He wanted to officially settle the right-to-die issue once and for all by taking it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. In his view, the only way to do that was to get himself convicted of murder.
We follow Jack Kevorkian on his road to self-destruction with his push to get convicted for murder. From 1990 through 1998, Kevorkian had achieved numerous acquittals thanks to his attorney, Geoffrey Fieger. But, for his trial in 1999, he abandoned his attorney when he needed him most in favor of defending himself. While a brilliant mind, Kevorkian was completely out of his league in a court room. He recited Thomas Jefferson and Cicero and made an eccentric and histrionic plea that earned him 9 years in prison. He was not let out on bail, as he had planned. His case was not heard before the Supreme Court, as he had planned. He went to prison, as he had not planned.
What we ultimately see in Jack Kevorkian is a man that, despite himself, had a worthy cause and was willing to sacrifice himself in the process of supporting his cause. As Jack Lessenberry, a journalist with the Detroit Metro News describes in the documentary, “To see Jack Kevorkian in action is to see an Old Testament prophet, very disagreeable, not someone you’d want over for dinner. But he was willing to discuss death, a subject that we, as a society, are in denial over.”
This documentary, and its subject, so inextricably linked with death, ironically provide some interesting life lessons. Of all the people who could have taken up the right-to-die issue, it had to be Jack Kevorkian, a most persistent but often disagreeable sort. But he was also a very sensitive and complicated man. We get to see how the theme of death haunted him and spurred him into action. He gained his nickname, “Dr Death,” long before he became involved with euthanasia. He was the one to discover how to best tell the time of death of a patient, which is crucial when harvesting organs for transplants. You simply need to examine the eyes. He was a lifelong celibate and, in his case, he cuts a rather lonely figure. What did he do for fun? Well, for one thing, he created paintings about death. Had a better adjusted person taken on the cause of the right to die would that person have made as big of an impact as Dr. Jack Kevorkian? Finally, with his death, his legacy has a chance to live on.
KEVORKIAN is released by Virgil Films.
Available on Digital Download starting January 15, 2013