The Big Feed, 1999

In the spring of 1999, we traveled the south of the USA interviewing prisoners on death row about the ritual of their final meal. After being sentenced to death in the USA, the prisoner spends the remainder of his/her life incarcerated in a tiny cell. A week before the date of the execution, he is separated from the other prisoners and brought to “the death watch area”. He is henceforth kept under 24-hour surveillance and is forced to go through a series of rituals: signing off his personal belongings, shaving (if being electrocuted), meeting a priest - and finally eating his final meal. This tradition dates back to the rituals of the Pharaohs and ancient Greece. Our question was: “How is this ritual approached today?” We focused on the absurd contradiction of a legal system that keeps a human being alive under inhumane conditions for over ten years, only to show him a small gesture of kindness shortly before executing him. Is the purpose of the ritual to comfort the people involved in the execution, or is the ritual a cog in the wheel of a legal machine that consciously uses rituals and aesthetics to turn the punishment into a spectacle where the convict is subdued to play his/her part?

11 min. DV, produced for iKON, Swedish Television, 1999

Marion Pruitt, executed 12 April 1999, Cummins Unit, Arkansas State Prison

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Studio Bigert & Bergström

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Mats Bigert
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+46 708 57 86 52
Email:
bigert@bigertbergstrom.com

Lars Bergström
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+46 708 57 86 53
Email:
bergstrom@bigertbergstrom.com

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