TRAILER

A Georgia doctor and leader of the state’s lethal injection team offers a rare reflection on the contradictory world of medicalized executions.

19 min  |  HD  |  Closed Captioning  |  2017

SYNOPSIS

The medical community strongly opposes the use of medicine for executions. And yet, most states practicing lethal injections require a physician’s oversight. Because of this conflict, states go to great lengths to conceal the identities of participating medical personnel. But Dr. Carlo Musso has been public about his decade-plus long tenure on Georgia’s execution team.

The Sandman follows a doctor torn between the Hippocratic Oath and a commitment to provide what he calls “end of life care” within the correctional environment. And yet, Dr. Musso personally opposes the practice of capital punishment. This short documentary explores one doctor’s equivocation and justification as he grapples with his own moral conflict and asks audiences to consider how medicine might mask the violent nature of such a practice.

Watch Death Row Doctor – a shortened version of this film produced for The New York Times Op-Docs.

ABOUT

SYNOPSIS

The medical community strongly opposes the use of medicine for executions. And yet, most states practicing lethal injections require a physician’s oversight. Because of this conflict, states go to great lengths to conceal the identities of participating medical personnel. But Dr. Carlo Musso has been public about his decade-plus long tenure on Georgia’s execution team.

The Sandman follows a doctor torn between the Hippocratic Oath and a commitment to provide what he calls “end of life care” within the correctional environment. And yet, Dr. Musso personally opposes the practice of capital punishment. This short documentary explores one doctor’s equivocation and justification as he grapples with his own moral conflict and asks audiences to consider how medicine might mask the violent nature of such a practice.

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DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

In recent years, a series of botched executions have highlighted the gruesome nature of lethal injections. As a long-time opponent to capital punishment, I found these events to be particularly difficult to digest. But, I had also held the belief that if our society were to practice the death penalty, lethal injection was the best option. As I read coverage of these incidents and the legal fallout, I became increasingly curious about the role of medicine in executions.

Researching “The Sandman” was an investigation. I spent months researching the intersection of medicine and executions, trying to see this issue from multiple perspectives. I found that each conversation with a journalist, lawyer or doctor, challenged my own preconceived notions about the nature of medicalized executions.

Dr. Musso was one of the very few participating physicians to speak publicly about his involvement. He first revealed his identity in a medical journal in 2005. Over the course of filming, we discussed the theoretical and moral implications of his role and I came to understand him to be a pragmatic man in an extraordinary position.

The line he often repeated, “If I had a family member on death row, I’d want someone like me there,” resonated on a practical level. His role is to prevent further pain throughout the execution process. And yet, his participation is a tacit endorsement of the practice he claims to oppose. I began to wonder, in what ways I and so many of us participate in systems we do not support, and what it takes to actually confront them.

My goal with “The Sandman” was to provoke questions, rather than prescribe answers. I hope it opens dialogue on the polarizing subject of capital punishment.

DIRECTOR BIOGRAPHY

lauren-knappLauren Knapp is a nonfiction storyteller working in documentary film, radio, television and 360. Her stories have been featured on the The New York Times, PBS NewsHour, NPR, PRI’s The World, The Atlantic, and TIME among others. Her first feature documentary Live From UB, follows the trajectory of Mongolia’s contemporary political and social transitions through the lens of its rock musicians. She directed it with the support of a Fulbright Fellowship in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

She’s focused her lens on social issues ranging from capital punishment to lockdown drills to fair chance employment. Her current project, Passage, documents four women’s experience of transitioning into motherhood with a focus on how access to resources and support affect her experience.

When she’s not in the field or edit room, she’s in the classroom. She has taught at Georgetown University, Northwestern University, and George Mason University.

Lauren holds a Bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Grinnell College and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Documentary Film and Video from Stanford University.

 

AWARDS + SCREENINGS

AWARDS

2018 In The Palace International Short Film Festival – Best Student Documentary
2018 RiverRun International Film FestivalBest Student Documentary Short
2018 Thin Line Film Festival – Best Student Documentary
2018 Rosebud Film Festival Rosebud Award
2017 DC Shorts Film FestivalAudience Award
2017 Student Academy Awards – Finalist
2017 BAFTA Student Film Awards – Short List
2017 Small Axe Radical Short Film Festival – Best Documentary by a Student Filmmaker
2017 Windrider International Student Film Festival – Social Justice Award
Black Maria Film Festival – Jury’s Choice Award

SCREENINGS

Social Justice Film Festival  |  October 5-14, 2018  |  Seattle, WA
(In)Justice For All  |  October 4-13, 2018  |  Chicago, IL
Artists as Activists Symposium  |  September 20, 2018  |  Grinnell, IA
Indie Street Film Festival  |  July 26, 2018  |  Red Bank, NJ
15th In the Palace International Short Film Festival  |  June 23-30, 2018  |  Balchik, Bulgaria
JellyFEST  |  June 10, 2018  |  Los Angeles
Toronto True Crime Film Festival  |  June 9, 2018  |  Toronto, Canada
Riverrun International Film Festival  |  April 22 & 28, 2018  |  Winston Salem, NC
Thin Line Film Festival  |  April 21, 2018  |  Denton, TX
Athens Film + Video Festival  |  April 10, 2018  |  Athens, OH
Salem Film Festival  |  March 24, 2018  |  Salem, MA
Redline International Film Festival  |  January 2018
Rosebud Film Festival  |  January 26, 2018  |  Washington, DC
British Documentary Film Festival  |  December 4, 2017  |  London, UK
Bucharest Short Film Festival  |  December 2, 2017
Festival de Cine y Derechos Humanos  |  November 23, 2017  |  Barcelona, Spain
ZINEBI Bilbao International Documentary and Short Film Festival  |  November 14, 2017  |  Bilbao, Spain
DOC NYC  |  November 11, 2017  |  New York, NY
Cucalorus Film Festival  |  November 11, 2017  |  Wilmington, NC
St. Louis International Film Festival  |  November 9, 2017  |  St. Louis, MO
UNAFF  |  October 27, 2017  |  Palo Alto, CA
Global Voices Film Festival  |  September 16, 2017 |  San Francisco, CA
LadyFest Atlanta  |  September 9, 2017  |  Atlanta, GA
DC Shorts Film Festival  |  September 8 & 10, 2017  |  Washington, DC
Global Impact Film Festival  |  August 27, 2017 | Washington, DC
Duone the Rabbit Hole  |  August 18-20, 2017  |  Lake of Menteith, Scotland
Macon Film Festival  |  July 22, 2017  |  Macon, GA
Small Axe Radical Short Film Festival  |  July 14, 2017  |  Tolpuddle, UK
Montclair Film Festival  |  April 28, 2017  |  Montclair, NJ
Atlanta Film Festival  |  March 28, 2017  |  Atlanta, GA
Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival  |  Spotlight on Filmmakers – Featured Filmmaker  |  March 25, 2017  |  Sebastopol, CA
Bethesda Film Fest  |  March 17 & 18, 2017  |  Bethesda, MD
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival  |  February 18, 2017  |  Missoula, MT
Dam Short Film Festival  |  February 8, 2017  |  Boulder City, NV
Black Maria Film Festival

PRESS + REVIEWS

PRESS

Interview with Director Lauren Knapp ahead of the Rosebud Film Festival
Picture Lock Radio  |  July 2018

BAFTA Student Film Awards Shortlist Revealed
Hollywood Reporter  |  May 2017

‘The Sandman’ Film Follows Doctor Who Executed Georgia’s Death Row Inmates
Georgia Public Broadcasting  |  March 2017

Short Circuit
Culture Spot  |  March 2017

Going Out Guide for Montgomery County
Washington Post  |  March 2017

Local Filmmakers at Bethesda Film Fest
Connection Newspapers  |  March 2017

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival – The Sandman
We Are Moving Stories  |  February 2017

Death Row Doctor
New York Times Op-Doc  |  January 2017

A Doctor at the Center of the Capital Punishment Debate
BioEdge  |  January 2017

REVIEWS

Powerful, potent and a clarity that is frightening and touching at the same time.
DC Shorts

Examining the reasons why a doctor opposed to capital punishment has engaged in dozens of Georgia executions, this film provides unique insight into the challenges of the modern-day death penalty in America.
– Robin Konrad, Legal Expert on Lethal Injection and Assistant Professor of Law

Lauren Knapp’s The Sandman takes its viewers to places of the heart, soul and mind where death row inmates and the medical profession wrestle with profound end of life consequences. Meaningful conversations are bound to be the result of seeing this film and pondering difficult questions about the death penalty in our country today.

– Susan Davis, Thin Line Film Festival

In this haunting documentary, a physician not only provides health care to prisoners but – against the ethical tenets of every major medical professional organization – also assists in executions.
– Jonathan I. Groner MD, Professor of Surgery at The Ohio State University College of Medicine

Many of the documentaries blurred the lines between observation and staging for visual effect. There were diverse subject matters from an elderly painter of religious icons to a post-apocalyptic landscape where horses live amongst the ruins of man’s civilization. But one documentary stood out for its examination of medical ethics colliding with over-reaching state power. Given unique access to those who wield the power of life and death over one of the biggest prison populations in the US, the jury is unified in awarding best documentary to Lauren Knapp for THE SANDMAN.

In The Palace International Short Film Festival

A brilliantly executed educational piece that will open your mind to things unimaginable. 
JellyFEST

THE SANDMAN is a very deep film for twenty minutes and a very interesting perspective into a subject that is so controversial. I definitely recommend this short film! 
Nightmarish Conjurings

…[A]n emotional head-turner. No matter what side of the coin you find yourself on, you can’t help but feel the stirring affectivity behind Dr. Musso’s struggles with compassion and belief.  
PopHorror

CONTACT

For press inquiries or to arrange a screening:  lk@lauren-knapp.com

The Sandman is available for streaming on Kanopy.

Educational and institutional distribution through New Day Films