We don’t know how. We don’t know when. But death comes for us all.
To be human is to wrestle with this truth and with the great unanswered question: How do we live with death in our eye? Helen Whitney’s new documentary film “Into the Night: Portraits of Life and Death” (premiering nationwide on PBS on March 26 - at 8:00 p.m. on KUED in Utah) features fascinating, unexpected voices from various walks of life: old and young, believers and nonbelievers, the dying and the healthy, well known and obscure, all unified by their dramatic experience of death. For each of them death is no longer an abstraction, far away in the future. Whether through a dire prognosis, the imminence of their own death, the loss of a loved one, a sudden epiphany, or a temperament born to question, these are people who have truly ‘awakened’ to their own mortality.
Among the people featured in the film are: Caitlin Doughty, an alternative mortician and bestselling author with her own YouTube following; Adam Frank, an astrophysicist and NPR commentator, Gabriel Byrne, renowned actor of stage and screen; Jim Crace, award-winning novelist and environmentalist; Max More, a cryonicist and futurist; Stephen Cave, a British philosopher; Phyllis Tickle, a near-death experience spokesperson and religious historian; Pastor Vernal Harris, a Baptist minister and advocate for hospice care in African-American communities; and Jeffrey Piehler, a Mayo Clinic heart surgeon.
Oscar nominated, Emmy and Peabody award-winning, film producer, director and writer Helen Whitney has been a prolific creator of documentaries and feature films. Her compelling subject matter has included topics such as youth gangs, presidential candidates, the McCarthy era, mental illness, Pope John Paul II, Great Britain’s class structure, homosexuality and photographer Richard Avedon. Her films include “The Monastery,” “John Paul II: The Millennial Pope,” “The Mormons,” “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero,” “Forgiveness; A Time to Love and a Time to Hate,” Whitney is also author of a book titled “A Time to Love and a Time to Hate,” with a forward written by the Dalai Lama.