Into The Night
Portraits of Life and Death
2-DVD set features intimate, provocative stories of men and women forever changed by their encounters with mortality.
Directed by Helen Whitney
Produced by Helen Whitney, Katie Taber
Writer: Helen Whitney
Editor: Kris Liem
Music: Ed Bilous
Narrator: Sharon Stone
We don't know how. We don't know when. But death comes for us all.
"Reminds us that to live life fully means making friends with death. Masterful. A stunning cultural artifact." Dr. Anita Hannig, Assoc Prof Anthropology, Brandeis Univ
To be human is to wrestle with this truth and with the great unanswered question: How do we live with death in our eye? Do we go gently or raging against the dying light? Do we depart with equanimity or with anger? With clenched fists or more commonly with denial? Or do we see death as something to be fought and even possibly conquered, a challenge increasingly pursued by some of the brightest scientific minds? Finally, what are the stories we tell ourselves? Whether shaped by religion, science, art, the natural world, the power of love, do these narratives sustain us or do they fall away when we suddenly find ourselves "with skin in the game"?
INTO THE NIGHT: Portraits of Life and Death features fascinating, unexpected voices from various walks of life: old and young, believers and nonbelievers, the dying and the healthy, well known and obscure. Among them: 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; Max More, a cryonicist and futurist; and Phyllis Tickle, a near-death experience spokesperson and religious historian.
However varied their backgrounds, all are unified by their uncommon eloquence and intelligence, and most important by their dramatic experience of death. Each of them has been shocked into an awareness of mortality—and they are forever changed. For 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.
To learn more about the people featured in the two part series, go to Links in the right hand column and select Part 1 or Part 2.
Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2021
Copyright Date: 2017
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-65-8
"This exceptional documentary is full of heart, offering a variety of perspectives on death and dying that will prompt viewers to reflect on their own attitudes, beliefs and values, shedding light on life and living. The featured stories cover death, dying and grief from personal, professional, psychological, biological, medical, sociological, philosophical, and spiritual perspectives, serving as an insightful conversation-starter for rich discussion in classroom and community settings."
Erica G. Srinivasan, Director, Center for Grief and Death Education, Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
"Moving, beautiful, and multifaceted...The filmmakers masterfully weave together information and observations about biomedical, spiritual, social, and cultural aspects of death and mourning...Into the Night poses probing questions that will generate important conversations about the meaning of life and death, grief, and the ethics of end-of-life care - and these conversations will linger long after the credits roll. The film demystifies and destigmatizes death, and is essential viewing for students enrolled in courses on death, dying, end-of-life care, medical ethics, and more."
Deborah Carr, Professor of Sociology, Boston University, Author, Golden Years? Social Inequality in Later Life
"Apocalyptic and stunning and, for me, even life-changing. An astonishing piece of work which I urge you all to see."
Anna Fels, MD, Weill Medical College of Cornell University at New York Presbyterian Hospital
"A miraculous and courageous film that is so true, and so deep that it should be required viewing for all mortal beings."
Irvin David Yalom, MD, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, Stanford University, Co-author, A Matter of Death and Life
"We are all going 'Into the Night'--it's one of the few guarantees in life. This poignant and beautiful film can be used as a catalyst to increase our death literacy and understanding of this integral process in life. The stories and interviews have such diversity and depth that there is something for everyone to connect with. This is just what people need to get conversations about dying, death and living well started."
Katherine Kortes-Miller, Associate Professor of Social Work, Lakehead University, Author, Talking About Death Won't Kill You: The Essential Guide to End-of-Life Conversations
"It can come as a surprise that discussing death with others can bring us closer to them, making us realize that we share many of the same responses to mortality. But reaching out, ending the silence, can be difficult, especially in a classroom setting. Instructors can break the ice by showing this excellent film, which documents the moving and deeply personal thoughts and experiences of several individuals whose lives were transformed by the realization that they are going to die."
Steven Luper, Professor of Philosophy, Trinity University, Author, The Philosophy of Death and Mortal Objects (forthcoming)
"Watching Into the Night makes clear that it's a lot more about life...To potential viewers, Whitney has a simple message: Don't be scared."
David Bauder, Associated Press
"A deep and riveting exploration of life's central mystery - death. Featuring a panoply of voices from all walks of life, the film examines how we inhabit our lives in the shadow of our mortality. Brimming with refreshing insight and radical moments of introspection, this extended visit with death should be required viewing for people of all ages. Its central message reminds us that to live life fully means making friends with death. Masterful. A stunning cultural artifact."
Dr. Anita Hannig, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Brandeis University, Author, The Day I Die: The Untold Story of Assisted Dying in America (forthcoming)
"Not until our own death - or the death of someone we love deeply - do we confront the meaning of death and the life we have lived. Into the Night challenges us to explore profound existential questions: What happens when I die? How do I feel about my own death? Do I fear it, rage against it, or embrace it? Is there life after death? This wonderful film will stimulate viewers - young and old - to think deeply, perhaps for the first time, how they will make sense of their own life and mortality. I highly, highly recommend this film, not just for those students interested in psychology, thanatology, or medicine, but for anyone curious about the meaning of life and of death."
Dr. Christopher Davis, Professor of Psychology, Carleton University
"A uniquely profound portrayal of our common human destiny."
Donald Shriver, former President, Union Theological Seminary, New York
"Into the Night provides the opportunity to consider the fragility of life, the process of dying, and beliefs about the afterlife. Viewers will be challenged to consider connections between living and dying from people who have occupied a variety of roles in life. While appropriate for use in formal death education courses and the training of people involved in end of life care, this resource could also be useful in any setting where the goal is to stimulate conversations among adults who wish to contemplate their mortality."
Carla Sofka, Professor of Social Work, Siena College
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2-DVD set with SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection
Part 1: Cast and Themes
Part 2: Cast and Themes
Awards and Festivals
National Broadcast on PBS
Austin Film Festival
Chagrin Film Festival
Hamptons Documentary Festival
Death And Dying
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... more Reviews
"Into The Night accurately examines how our death narratives both fail us and comfort us through stories in religion, science, modern trends, and fascinating prospects of future advances in aging. Through beautifully told stories of loss the film examines powerful questions in a raw, loving, funny, and at times graphic way. The film details the importance of conversations about death in communities, and the real problems associated with continuing to keep death at a distance. The fundamental truth is we all must come to terms with death, and embracing death is essential to living and loving with the fullness of our being."
Angela Knight, Associate Professor of Funeral Service Education, University of Central Oklahoma
"Whitney's ability to wrestle with our most immense uncertainties is astonishing. This is a transformative film for the ages."
Andrew Solomon, President, Pen American Center
"A masterpiece. Every element perfection. A work of surpassing beauty, profound significance, daring emotional and intellectual honesty, towering spiritual courage, breathless intimacy and consummate artistry."
Martha Wilder, Shakespeare scholar, Professor Emerita of English, Pomona College
"Into the Night gives crucial voice to contemporary death perspectives through a rich storytelling approach. The documentary provides both professional and personal accounts of death and dying that reflect a range of philosophical, religious, historical, societal, and medical facets. Interestingly, Into the Night also serves as Whitney's homage to her fellow death researcher, Ted Winterburn, who died before the film's completion. Whitney's cinematic contribution to the Death Positive movement is therefore not only educational and enlightening, it is also a wonderfully intimate glimpse into her own grief process. Those involved in death studies, social sciences, medicine, humanities, and hospice care will find this film especially useful."
Dr. Kassia Wosick, Professor of Sociology, El Camino College
"The power of the individual portraits, the cumulative effect of the different experiences and points of view, the gorgeous images that made me relish more than ever what we mortals have around us in the here and now."
Barbara Weisberg, Author, Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism
"The documentary...is intended to break the taboo of talking about the inevitable...Whitney's film is one of the first major documents of the Death Positive movement. Taking its name from body positivity, being death positive does not mean having a suicidal streak, or a ghoulish interest in the grave. Instead, it is about rebalancing the modern disconnected relationship with death, by starting the conversation before it becomes a necessity."
Richard Whittaker, Austin Chronicle
"Whitney's film takes death on fearlessly...Death may be sudden, or dementia may steal our capacity to make decisions. But the documentary urges us to allow death to provoke us to live more intensely."
Deborah Quilter, Next Avenue/Forbes
"Existential questions sit at the heart of most of Whitney's work. But making Into the Night would allow her to directly ask the questions she wanted to stop tiptoeing around: How do you live, and live well, with death in our eye?"