In Oslo: Culture Against the Death Penalty

18 June 2016


The 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty also includes a cultural programme which is as diverse as it is substantial. Previews of documentaries and performance exhibitions: art helps spread abolitionist ideas.

For this event, Oslo’s House of Literature is hosting two free events organised by ECPM. The first, which will be held on 19th June, is called Cinema Against the Death Penalty. From 2 p.m., three documentaries will be shown one after the other to provide a more comprehensive and more complex vision of the death penalty across the world. The day will begin with Last Day of Freedom, a short animated film nominated for the 2016 Oscars and directed by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman. We will follow Bill Babbitt’s self-questioning as he learns that his brother has committed a crime: should be tell the police? Last Day of Freedom sits at the heart of the social and moral complexity of the United States. This will be followed by a screening of Bloodsworth: An Innocent Man, directed by Gregory Bayne. It is the story of a legal error which marked the history of the United States when, for the first time, a prisoner sentenced to death was able to prove his innocence with the help of DNA samples. Finally, the evening will end with a screening of The Wavering Public? The Death Penalty, Justice and Public Opinion by Yo Nagatsuka, a documentary about a country which is too rarely studied with regard to the death penalty: Japan. The researcher, Mai Sato, asked her compatriots about their position on the issue…the stories she heard should surprise you. A debate with Mai Sato will follow the screening.

On 22nd June, again at the House of Literature, you can see the premiere of The Penalty by Will Francome. The death penalty is a key subject for Francome who also directed, in particular, In Prison My Whole Life, a documentary about Mumia Abu-Jamal which was presented at the famous Sundance Festival and won a number of prizes between Paris and Amsterdam. For this 6th Congress, he has agreed to show us his latest feature film in a world premiere. The Penalty is a detailed study of the death penalty industry in the United States, covering its scandals and its most disastrous consequences. The producer, Laura Shacham, and Will Francome will be present for a discussion after the screening.

Inside the opera

Inside Oslo’s Opera House there will be an exhibition, Windows on Death Row: Art from inside and outside the prison walls, created by Patrick Chappatte, an artist, and Anne-Frédérique Widmann, a journalist. Windows on Death Row brings together pieces of work by America’s most famous press artists and by detainees held on death row. The exhibition therefore reveals a multitude of perspectives and points of view. The organisers hope to stimulate discussion about the death penalty through the diversity of questions it inspires. A space will also be dedicated to the work of the Iranian cartoonist, Mana Neyestani. Imprisoned for his activities in his country of birth, Mana lives in France today. He regularly works with ECPM, encouraging students to draw against the death penalty.

The Congress’s prestigious opening ceremony will include two artistic events between speeches. Karoline Aamås and Hege Eriksdatter Østefjells, two Norwegian acrobatic dancers, had the opportunity to work with some Kenyan prisoners sentenced to death. From that experience, they have created a dizzying interval performance called I don’t know if I’m strong enough but I’m not letting go of you. Finally, the artist Michael O’Donnell will screen his work from the Final Sentence project, a memorial work dedicated to the last words of prisoners sentenced to death in Texas. The musician Jan Koop will accompany the screening on the violin with a piece of music composed by Luigi Dallapiccola.