Anytime you can start a festival with a Werner Herzog documentary, you should start a festival with a Werner Herzog documentary. So we started our 2011 fest with Into The Abyss (imdb | tiff) on Thursday night, the first real screening of the fest.
The documentary sprung from footage gathered for a short TV series about death row inmates, but one particular story had enough depth for a feature. That story was of two Texas men, one serving a life sentence and the other on death row, as well as their family and the family of their victims. Herzog makes it clear from the beginning that he is against the death penalty but doesn’t spend time on making that case, instead focusing on the damage done to everyone surrounding a murder. The most interesting and compelling interview subject was a former captain of the ‘death squad’ at Huntsville. I won’t say more than that; you need to watch it for yourself. In classic Herzog style an incredible mix of drama, truth, humour and fascinating subjects bubble to the top and create a lasting impression.
Herzog and his editor took to the stage after the film, and talked extensively. I won’t be able to describe how he wrapped up the Q&A perfectly, echoing the final scene of the documentary, but he did. He was funny and insightful and so much more excited than the last time we saw him at the festival — understandably so; he’d just lost his adoptive mother. It was a classic Herzog moment. And a classic film festival moment too.