Hot Docs: How To Die In Oregon

Due to a short but bad-ass cold I wasn’t able to see either The Bully Project (hot docs) or If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front (hot docs), but there was no way I was going to miss How To Die In Oregon (imdb | hot docs). It had won the jury grand prize at Sundance, and it was about what I consider one of the most interesting societal debates: doctor-assisted suicide.

The filmmaker interviews several people, but has the most access to one woman (and family) in particular, a cancer patient who has only months to live. She’s smart and funny and formidable and vulnerable and loving and utterly charming, and the audience knows from the second they see her that they will witness her decision to die. It’s an extraordinarily raw and honest bit of life put to video, and thoroughly gut-wrenching to watch, but was never exploitative or saccharine. It was simply — maybe perfectly — a snippet of the beauty and ugliness of life, and of death.

If you ever find the opportunity to watch it, I cannot recommend it enough. Be forewarned, though: when the credits rolled, dry eyes in the theatre were few and far between.

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