09 November 2011

Holy land

. . .but parallel to that, I have filmed with other death-row inmates for a series of shorter films for television. Those are more focused on just one person. One of them, who was 23 minutes away from execution, got a stay. He tells me about his last trip from death row — which is in Livingston, Texas, but they don’t have a death chamber. So they’re transported 43 miles to Hunstsville, to Walls Unit, where they have a death house. And for the first time in 17 years, he sees trees. He sees other cars; he’s riding in this van. Actually, I did this trip now with a camera, because he says something very, very beautiful: Seeing an abandoned gas station, for example, or seeing a cow in a field is something very magnificent. And he says for him, it was like Israel — it was like the Holy Land. All of the sudden I look at America — the forlorn, kind of bleak part of Texas between Livingston and Huntsville — and everything appears like the Holy Land. You see, because of this project and talking to death-row inmates, my perspective has shifted somehow. And it’s not just America. If I travel from Munich to the village where I grew up, this is holy land.

Werner Herzog, via

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