Documentarian Vanessa Gould leads her viewer by the hand through the day in a life of the darling weirdos at The New York Times obituary desk. Here stands one of the quirkiest writing departments you will find still working in print and still bothering with the emotionally significant though economically redundant business of obituaries (obits aren’t exactly clickbait, are they?). Moving from deep dives into the archives to interviews with the writers – including the lively Margalit Fox and hilarious archivist Jeff Roth – Gould follows the process by which a life gets deemed newsworthy first thing in the morning, and becomes history in 500 words by the 6 p.m. publishing deadline. “The one thing that all the subjects have in common – besides being dead – is that their lives had an impact of one sort or another. The word impact is infinitely elastic,” journalist and obit writer William Grimes says. Gould’s excellent documentary captures this elasticity, stretching the spectator to consider why bearing witness to a life collectively is so very worth the trouble.
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