Film series set to question our views on death penalty

A new film series exploring how the death penalty is represented on screen is being launched as part of a project with researchers at the University of Sheffield.

The series, Taking Lives: Art, Activism and Death Penalty on Screen, is set to feature four films that are thought-provoking, unsettling and profoundly moving stories to help us question the psychology of killing, whether that be through murder by individuals or state-sanctioned executions.

Being screened at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield, the film series is based on research by Dr Katherine Ebury from the University of Sheffield’s School of English that is examining how the death penalty affects us as individuals, activists and cinema audiences around the world.

The films featured in the series, which is a collaboration between the Showroom Cinema, Amnesty International and the University’s School of English, span a period between 1960s and the present day. They ask questions such as; why do we hurt each other? What does violence have to do with justice? And what does it take to be forgiven?

Dr Katherine Ebury said: “Films can provide us with powerful stories but they can also help us to examine complex political and social issues from a range of viewpoints.

“The films featured in this new series are designed to cover a wide time period and an international geography, offering access to different cultural conventions around the death penalty, while their narratives still offer intense emotional and intellectual dilemmas for contemporary audiences.”

Films included in the series are:

  • In Cold Blood (15) – A classic true crime film based on Truman Capote’s famous non-fiction novel that traces a crime committed by two men in rural Kansas and their eventual punishment
  • Dancer in the Dark (15) – A heart-rending Danish drama directed by Lars von Trier starring Björk as a daydreaming factory worker who commits a violent crime
  • The Widow of Saint Pierre (La Veuve de Saint-Pierre) (15) – In this period drama, starring Juliette Binoche, a murderer awaits the guillotine on an island, even as his character, and his popularity with the islanders, begins to shift
  • A Short Film About Killing (18) – This decorated crime drama from Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski deals with a cold-blooded murder, followed by a calculated state execution  

Each film in the series will be introduced by a researcher who is studying the death penalty and followed by a post-screening discussion exploring the issues around human rights and the death penalty raised by the film.

The mini film season, Taking Lives: Art, Activism and Death Penalty on Screen, is being held at the Showroom Cinema, Sheffield, from Thursday 11 April 2019 until Tuesday 30 April 2019.

For tickets, event information and screen dates and times, visit:  

The University of Sheffield’s School of English is one of the UK’s largest English departments, renowned for world-leading research that informs its high quality, innovative teaching.

The school was ranked the best in the UK for Research Environment in the latest Research Excellence Framework. Its academics are passionate about using their research to build relationships with people, businesses and industries outside of the University for the benefit of society.

For more information on the University’s School of English, including how to study English degrees at Sheffield or collaborate with researchers in the school, visit:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here