Why Didn't You Hear More About HOW TO DIE IN OREGON?

The Sundance Film Festival jury obviously found much to admire about Peter D. Richardson’s HOW TO DIE IN OREGON, a documentary about physician-assisted suicide in a state where it is legal. After all, it presented the film with the festival’s Grand Jury Prize in the Documentary category on Saturday night. But audiences outside of Park City may not have heard a whole lot about the film.

In a New York Times piece, Brooks Barnes observed that even the film’s premiere last week was a solemn, quiet affair, lacking the media hubbub generally found at a festival film debut. Brooks suggest that the power of the film itself, and its difficult subject matter, may have been the reason for the lack of attention, calling it “without question one of the most difficult-to-watch movies of the festival, this year or any year.” (It could also partly be because audience members are guaranteed to have another chance to see the film, which was produced by HBO and will air later this year, after the festival, Barnes allows.)

Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films, told Barnes that half of her own staff declined to watch the film straight through. “Nobody wants to stare death in the face, and that’s the reason nobody wants to see this film,” Nevins said. “Don’t get me wrong — it’s very harsh, a very hard watch. But ultimately it’s an important film about courage, about dignity, about compassion.”

Read Barnes’ article here.

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