A film by John Bruce and Paweł Wojtasik
2017, 91 minutes
No. 157


A deeply moving and revelatory documentary, End of Life from filmmakers John Bruce and Paweł Wojtasik captures the last years of five individuals in the process of dying.

In preparation for this unique project, the filmmakers trained to be end-of-life doulas and documented hundreds of hours of interactions with their subjects. The Doula works with the dying person, along with those surrounding them, to help design, guide and support their wishes for whatever a “good death” might mean for them.

Intimately shot for over four years in hospital rooms, homes and work spaces, and employing an immersive, participatory approach – the filmmakers, on occasion, stepping into the frame to care for or talk to the patients – the documentary allows for viewers to reflect on their own feelings and responses to the human body and mortality.

Yet, throughout, End of Life remains a surprising and beautiful film. “In our culture, almost everyone fears death,” says Ram Dass, the noted spiritual teacher and author, and one of this documentary’s subjects. By approaching death as closely as possible, by allowing us to see the unique quality of life in its final phase, John Bruce and Paweł Wojtasik’s extraordinary achievement here is to disrupt centuries of Western thought and ideology.

Official Selection, New York Film Festival
Official Selection, Cinéma du Réel
Official Selection, Doclisboa
Official Selection, Montreal International Documentary Festival
Official Selection, Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival


“End of Life captures how our last moments can be filled with wonder, terror, and even bursts of creativity and humor…. Filmmakers Bruce and Wojtasik [are] concerned with how the cinema can encapsulate such a pivotal, intimate event, doing so with a keen sense of beauty – the film’s backlit photography can be striking in places – and ambiguity. Their approach is more meditative than it is reassuring or unnerving, floating in a gray area where people’s bodies and minds are slowly letting go, but still keeping death at bay. In that sense, End of Life can feel very much alive.” – Hollywood Reporter

“Viscerally intense, both in its emotion and its intellectual rigor.… End of Life is certainly not without its share of heartbreaking moments but the film, as [co-director] Bruce noted in the post-screening Q&A, is not really about death but about ‘life in proximity to death.’” – Leo Goldsmith, Artforum

"A compelling treatment of a difficult subject... Powerful... Recommended." – Video Librarian

“Extraordinary. A beautifully spare piece of filmmaking [that] it is abundant in generosity and endlessly rewarding.” - Nicholas Elliott, BOMB Magazine

Read the full interview with filmmakers John Bruce and Pawel Wojtasik about their film here: https://bombmagazine.org/articles/life-before-death-john-bruce-and-pawel-wojtasik-interviewed/