Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

Werner Herzog: On Death Row

In his 2011 documentary Into the Abyss Werner Herzog sits in front of killer Michael Perry and declares: "I don’t have to like you, but you are a human being."

Herzog brings this same brand of humanism to Death Row, a four part companion piece to Into the Abyss, which airs in the US on the Investigation Discovery channel. 

Herzog makes no secret of his opposition to the death penalty but also knows the difficulties of being critic of the system, and also German. 

He lays out his position with care. 

"As a German, coming from a different historical background and being a guest in the United States, I respectfully disagree with the practice of capital punishment," he says in the opening narration of his Death Row portraits.

Despite declaring his hand, or perhaps because he does, Herzog manages to paint a powerful  portrait of life and death on the Row, without turning the whole exercise into a petition or a sermon. 

As usual, it is the details that Herzog cares about most. He wants to know whether killer James Barnes can see the sky or trees from his cell. He wants to know what the lucky Hank Skinner wanted for his last dinner, before a scheduled execution that was stayed at the 11th hour.

Herzog spoke about the making of the series, Into the Abyss, and other matters besides, at a screening of two of his Death Row portraits at New York's IFC. The audio is below. 

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