As film guys we have had our eyes, ears and brains gulp down and skim over different genres, styles and subject matter within film. No matter where we are, we’re still just film students at the end of the day.Today we’re taking a very quick look at (two films in particular) one of the most fundemental topics life has to offer: DEATH

The Kill: Famous Documentary Films on Killing and Murders (Joshua Openheimer)

Documentaries deal with real life. And real life deals with the beginning and the end, i.e. life and death.

In a sense all films are about either love, death, or independance in some respect or another, but then you get the more ‘real’ ones that really tackle the issue of death head on…

For years documentary filmmakers have risked their lives and careers to produce films that show the audience the truth, highlight elements of humanity that are dark and twisted, and simply handling the death of large amounts of people.

The Death of Humans

One such film is called The Act of Killing, made in 2012, which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to re-enact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.

The film contains some particularly disturbing scenes in which these death-squad leaders candidly talk about the many people they’ve killed (over a million) and how they would do it.

In one scene, in the director’s cut version of this film, one of these death-squad leaders appears to make amends with whoever is listening, back at the location where the deaths were carried out, before he starts violently dry-heaving.

Werner Hertzog, who is one of the producers of this film has spent his career making gritting (low-budget looking) films tackling issues of power, death and darkness. His films have been considered note worthy in the film industry and are studied in film schools world wide. It’s refreshing to see that subject matter will genrally trump producition style when it comes to long lasting value. And also to see he’s still making movies!


For some people it’s easier to deal with the death of large amounts of humans conciously but when it comes to animals we live in denial and merely eat our way through our disgust. Animals losing their lives are commonly part of the dark side of the human spirit.

In The Cove, released in 2009, a group of activists, using state-of-the-art equipment, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.

This film is so disturbing that it led to an online PSA in order to take action against the illegal act of killing dolphins. This film is a justly made doci that deals with dophin murder and genocide as it’s thesis, but is only one of many important pieces of work that discover our absolute cruelty and commodity like treatment of our animal counterparts on this planet. It’s beautiful to see the impact films like this make on humanity today, and it shows us again that all the tricks and turns used to create a feature film establish a visual and audio demonstration that can expose real issues on any level.

For more about ‘The Cove’ visit

We’d love your thoughts and discussion on this piece!