Poignant documentary about the rapidly changing ways to bury loved ones
"Alternative Endings: Six New Ways To Die In America" (2019 release; 67 min.) is a documentary about the rapidly changing ways in the funeral and burial industry, and how Americans are looking at the end of life and remember loved ones. As the documentary opens, we are in "Boston, MA", where the funeral industry is holding a trade show (the largest in the country, we are told, and it certainly looks massive). "Let's Rethink Funerals" reads one banner. We then go to "Gulf of Mexico" where we meet Leila Johnson, whose dad has recently passed away. He loved the ocean, and she and her family have decided to put his ashes in a Memorial Reef that will strengthen the dying coral reef... At this point we are 10 min. into the documentary...
Couple of comments: this is the latest entry from HBO Documentary Films, and I continue to be amazed at the general high level of quality of these films. This particular entry looks at the new ways that many Americans are approaching the end of life, and in particular alternative ways to traditional funerals and burials. In that sense, the documentary is really misleadingly titled "Six New Ways to Die". I have to admit this film was at times difficult to watch, not because it isn't any good (in fact, it is very good), but because of the heavy emotional toll this is bound to take on many viewers. While of course we are reminded time and again that "death is part of life", and that more and more people remember loved ones in a "celebration of life" rather than a traditional funeral, the fact remains that someone is passing away or has passed away and that loved ones are left behind. Along the way we explore some of those alternative endings, including "Green Burial", "Space Burial", etc. The segment called "Medical Aid In Dying" is bound to be controversial for a number of reasons. I found it incredibly hard to watch. Even though the documentary last just over an hour, I was emotionally spent and drained at the end. And I can tell you that it has given me pause as I consider the fact that one day I will be facing these very same issues...
"Alternative Endings: Six New Ways To Die In America" premiered on HBO earlier this week, and is not available on HBO On Demand and other platforms. If you love documentaries and have any interest in this particular (if difficult and emotional) topic, I'd readily suggest you check this out on VOD and draw your own conclusion.
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