Clemency – a Powerful Debate on the Screen.

Alfre Woodward in Clemency

When you have officiated at a dozen lethal injections you become hardened to the routine and learn to take a detached view on the ultimate sanction of American justice.  Warden Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodward) has grown a thick skin in her job running a Texas prison with a busy death-row.  She, like most of her charges is coloured but she sits in her office as a symbol of the prison service rather than as a symbol; of black middle class life.  In fact her suburban married life is falling apart at the seams due to the stress of her working day.  She relaxes with a colleague for after work drinks rather than with her teacher husband who is openly resentful to her coolness to him in their bedroom.

The film opens with an execution going badly wrong and a prisoner suffering on the death row gurney. There is another execution to follow in a few weeks time  and their is a strong feeling that the condemned man is not guilty of murder.   But he is black so that does not bode well for him in the local justice system.   Bernadine knows that the get through this next execution she must ensure that everything works in a clean methodical manner and she knows that she must keep her emotions in check or risk an emotional collapse.  You can watch Clemency at the London Film Festival.





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