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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

'Apprentice' more than about death penalty

Apprentice poster
In the movie Apprentice, characters are surrounded by death.

More specifically, they deal with deaths that happen because of the death penalty.

The topic might be fraught with controversy, but writer-director Boo Junfeng wants to steer clear of making moral points.

"The themes are larger than that topic," he says.

"Capital punishment is something that I have always been concerned with and I wanted to tell a story about it," says the 32-year-old film-maker, who last month saw the film make the official selection in the Un Certain Regard section at the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival.

"The point of view I wanted to take was not going to come from the prisoners. I feel we have seen films like that before.

"I had a genuine curiosity about someone who is actually empowered to kill," says Boo at a press conference at the Parkroyal on Pickering hotel yesterday.

"We forget that in many societies around the world with the death penalty, there is a group of people who have to kill. What is the psyche behind that? That was something I was curious about."

Singapore actor Fir Rahman plays Aiman, a young prison officer who is taken under the supervision of senior officer and hangman Rahim, played by Malaysian actor Wan Hanafi Su.

Aiman's own life has been marked by the shadow of the death penalty, a fact that colours his relationship with Rahim and his sister, Suhaila, played by local actress Mastura Ahmad.

The film is Boo Junfeng's second feature, after the critically acclaimed Sandcastle (2010).

Apprentice will open in Singapore on June 30. It has been rated M18 by the Media Development Authority.

In Boo's early draft of the screenplay, the hangman was a "caricature", a person "with a certain darkness". But after speaking to a former executioner in Singapore, he revised the depiction.

"After meeting him, I realised this was a person. Of course, there are still moments of darkness to Rahim's character, but that does not define him as a person," he says.

Wan Hanafi Su, who plays veteran officer Rahim, also met the former hangman as well as prison religious counsellors who administer to the condemned. He was impressed by the care Boo took to make sure the actors were thoroughly prepared.

"It told me that this was a serious production," he says.

• Apprentice (96 minutes, M18) opens on June 30.

• There is a Blog-Aloud early screening on June 21 at GV Plaza at 7.15pm. Tickets are at $15. Writer-director Boo Junfeng will be present to take questions from the audience. For details, go to gv.com.sg





Source: StraitsTimes, June 14, 2016

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