A Certain Kind of Death

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


Unblinking and unsettling, A Certain Kind of Death lays bare the mysterious process that happens around us all the time: People die with no next of kin. Dead bodies are discovered by a postman, a motel clerk, a neighbor. If no one claims the body, where do they take the personal knickknacks? A wallet? A photograph? Is it possible to be that alone in the world? What happens to the remains?

Filmmakers Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock have crafted an extraordinary film that is equally meditative and fascinating. They follow the Los Angeles county workers who deal with this phenomenon every day. Florescent lights glow white over the dozens of people who try and piece together the clues left abruptly from these forgotten lives. Interviews are conducted with the conscientious crew of workers "just doing their job".

The filmmakers use a unique style that is absolutely perfect for their subject. Camerawork is precise, unaffected, capturing the mundaneness of death. No Hollywood ending here. Oddly these dead people begin to seem more alive than any of the still-breathing caseworkers. In the end, A Certain Kind Of Death reconfirms that the meaning of life is still elusive, yet there is one universal, inescapable reality: We all die.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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