Our film series Death and Dying was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas.

Dead Man Walking

Dr. Anthony Pinn

Bun B and Dr. Anthony Pinn teaching their 'Hip-Hop & Religion' Course At Rice University.

 Join us for our monthly film series, Death and Dying in the United States
curated by Dr. Anthony Pinn, director of Religious Studies at Rice University
and the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities

tonight's film is DEAD MAN WALKING

ABOUT FILM SERIES: Much about life in the United States involves an effort to bracket off death - to isolate and contain it.  This can involve specialized rituals for noting, managing and responding to the impact of death.  There are particular spaces in our collective social life - such as cemeteries - meant to mark off and keep death at a safe distance.  At other times anxiety over death - or chaos associated with loss in a more general sense - is projected on to populations that then become the representation of what is feared and therefore have to be ‘managed.’  In still other cases, any substantive divide between the living and the dead is denied, and this takes a variety of forms such as spirits or the living dead (i.e., zombies).  All of these approaches to and interactions with death have played out in the US, and they have been represented in popular culture.  This film series is an opportunity to examine various dimensions of US culture’s relationship with death and dying.  The aim is to present examples of ‘reflection’ on the nature and meaning of death and dying from various racial, gender, age, and class viewpoints.  Not every possibility is covered, but there is enough variety here to paint a complex portrait of what the ‘end’ means in the US.

Anthony B. Pinn is an American professor, author, and public intellectual working at the intersections of African-American religion, constructive theology, and humanist thought. Pinn is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. He is also the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning in Houston, Texas, and Director of Research for the Institute for Humanist Studies in Washington, D.C. He earned his Ph.D in the Study of Religion at Harvard University in 1994.  His dissertation was entitled "I Wonder as I Wonder: An Examination of the Problem of Evil in African-American Religious Thought." The topic of theological responses to evil and suffering in Black religion provided the foundation of Pinn's early work.  Today, Pinn's research interests span theory and method in the study of religion, black religious aesthetics, religion and popular culture, and African-American humanism.

ABOUT FILM: Tim Robbins' second directorial effort (after the political satire Bob Roberts) was this drama based on a true story, which explores the issue of capital punishment. Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon) is a nun and teacher living in rural Louisiana. One day, she receives a letter from Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn), who is scheduled to be executed soon for the rape and murder of two teenagers. After meeting Matthew, Sister Helen agrees to serve as spiritual counselor and see what she can do to stay the execution. A powerful, thought-provoking film that covers different angles of its topic without resorting to preaching, Dead Man Walking will cause the viewer to reflect regardless of their political viewpoint.


Our film series Death and Dying was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas.