Imagine going to work, and the first person you meet there will be dead by midnight. You know it, and he knows it, and the two of you have just met. Your job is to befriend this stranger and keep him calm, even as the hour of reckoning draws close. This is what Reverend Carroll Pickett did from 1982 to 1995, when he was the "death house" chaplain for the state of Texas. Reverend Pickett's story is told in the documentary At the Death House Door. It's an extremely powerful film, directed by Peter Gilbert and Steve James, who were responsible for the Oscar-nominated documentary, Hoop Dreams.
Reverend Pickett is a reserved man, calm and matter of fact. His method of coping with having to bear witness to so much death was to talk into a tape recorder, file the tapes away, and never listen to them again. Some executions have been harder to forget than others. Carlos De Luna was an innocent man executed in 1989. At the Death House Door is also De Luna's story, told through the actions of two investigative reporters working on a series of articles that would exonerate De Luna, and motivate Reverend Pickett to speak out against the death penalty.
At the Death House Door airs on IFC beginning May 29. Click here for additional showtimes, and more about the filmmakers, Reverend Pickett, and Carlos De Luna.