Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who became infamous as “Dr Death” for assisting over 100 suicides in the 1990s, never fails to elicit strong reactions. He’s been labeled as a humanitarian hero and a ghoulish villain. For ten years, he successfully won court cases with the help of the brazen attorney Geoffrey Feiger. Then, adopting a more flagrant strategy, Kevorkian defied the state by video-taping himself administering a lethal injection to a client and airing the footage on “60 Minutes.” He fired his legal team in order to represent himself and wound up going to prison. Even his closest friends had a hard time understanding his behavior.
What makes this guy tick? Upon his release from prison, Kevorkian opened up his life to filmmaker Matthew Galkin, who previously chronicled the awkward dynamics of the Pixies rock band in “loudQUIETloud” and PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk in “I AM AN ANIMAL”. During the course of filming, Kevorkian is undeterred by probation or troubled health. Living modestly in a small apartment, Kevorkian places himself on the 2008 ballot to run for the United States Congress from Oakland County, Michigan. After studying the U.S. Bill of Rights in prison, Kevorkian is newly obsessed with the 9th amendment which maintains that rights not enumerated in the Constitution are still retained by the people. He sees the amendment as the legal underpinning for his life’s work.
While following Kevorkian’s quixotic race for Congress, the film explores his complicated personality and history. As the child of Armenian immigrants who lost many family members to Turkish massacres, Kevorkian grew up with a great seriousness. He worked with cadavers to research organ transplants and was drawn to assisted suicide after watching his mother undergo a long, painful illness. Always restless, he’s written classical music, painted surrealist artwork, and even directed a self-financed film based on Handel’s Messiah.
His paradoxical character traits are on full display: altruism and ego; genius and self-destruction; humor and anger. Regardless of what you think of Kevorkian, no one can deny his courage and sacrifice for his beliefs. In an era of conformity, he’s never afraid to provoke. Spending this time with him is an experience that you won’t soon forget.
– Thom Powers