SXSW Film Review: This Is Your Death

Would you kill yourself on TV for money?

Over-the-top satire and gratuitous bloodletting are the real stars – and perhaps Josh Duhamel – of Giancarlo Esposito’s timely (what isn’t these days?) film This Is Your Death.

In the Q&A session after the screening, Duhamel (Las Vegas, All My Children) said a plain truth: “We have a president who is a reality TV star. We aren’t too far away from this story being real.” This story is kicked off by superstar TV host Adam Rogers (Duhamel) witnessing death on his Bachelor imitation show.

Borrowing liberally from the British hit Black Mirror and Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 classic Network well of dystopia, the film has Rogers spurred by an oxymoronic need for realness and “empathy” in a TV show. He and ruthless producer Illana (Famke Janssen) commence to create suicide TV, brought to you by class warfare, emotional despondence, and a popular soft drink.

Placing the obvious philosophical hypocrisies aside, the film’s ultimate issues lie in motivations, the film’s and each of the characters. The film’s general assumption, going with Duhamel’s Q&A point, is that people would watch a show about people killing themselves, without an iota of self-consciousness about it. It’s laid out as a baseline, as if the needle of America’s moral compass has stuck red, directed to bloodlust. Suspension of disbelief is made more unlikely by the characters’ first-world desperations. For example, Mason (Esposito), one of the contestants, believes himself in dire financial straits, which could be at least partially alleviated by simply ridding himself of the house he’s trying desperately to maintain. Yet, we’re to believe in the leap he takes: considering violently killing himself on live TV for money, without contemplation of a myriad of potential complications. Rogers himself turns bloodthirsty, seemingly to continue his nonsensical quest, brought on by greed and probably PTSD. If allowed to do so, the film has bite – less rabid pit bull, more slow-walking, armless zombie.

This Is Your Death

Narrative Spotlight, World Premiere
Sunday, March 12, 1:45pm, Rollins Theatre at the Long Center
Wednesday, March 15, 2pm, Alamo Lamar D

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

SXSW Film Announces Audience Awards
SXSW Film Announces Audience Awards
Grand Jury awards for Virtual Cinema also named

Josh Kupecki, March 18, 2017

SXSW Film Q&A: Divine Divas
SXSW Film Q&A: Divine Divas
Behind the scenes with the iconic drag queens of Brazil

Anastacia Uriegas, March 17, 2017

More by Kahron Spearman
How Did Legendary DJ and Londoner Paul Oakenfold Land in Bastrop?
How Did Legendary DJ and Londoner Paul Oakenfold Land in Bastrop?
The Londoner finds his way to a Texas ranch

July 30, 2021

New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

June 18, 2021


SXSW Film, SXSW, SXSW Film 2017, This Is Your Death, Giancarlo Esposito

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle