How documentaries can help shape how society copes with death
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We live in a society that fears, denies, and attempts to conquer death. This dominant cultural attitude towards death is detrimental to everyone involved in the dying process. There is a collective of people comprised of doctors, therapists, parents, spouses, nurses, and children who believe in the human capacity to die well. This group of individuals has a vision for transforming how we die in our country. At the center of that vision is an effort to effectively communicate to the general public that there is a crisis surrounding end-of-life experiences. Moreover, this group of individuals discovered that the most effective way to communicate this message to the public is to share stories of those who have died in a manner that both informs and educates the public. Documentary films focused on death and dying stories that both inform and engage the viewer have the ability to greatly sway social constructs surrounding death and dying. Thus, the documentary, if done well, can be a powerful tool for helping people cope with the process of dying. By examining three death and dying documentaries, and isolating the techniques used by filmmakers to inform and engage the audience, I provide recommendations for making an effective death and dying documentary.