Documentary Releases: Facing East (2019) - Reviewed

Facing East is a documentary of the most over buried cemetery in America. Divided in chapters, this doccie covers the history of Eastern Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. Very well laid out like an organized cemetery (see what I did there?), Facing East aptly starts with film footage from the subsequent court case that ensued from the misappropriation of funds that led to the over burial of thousands of people.

During the course of the first part, we hear from former staff, investigators and family members of the deceased, explaining their various points of view on what happened at Eastern Cemetery. It is clear that director/ writer Tommy Baker did his homework. Every section or chapter of the documentary addresses the greed and indifference of the cemetery manager in fraudulently accepting payments for lots already occupied. He takes us through the full circle of the matter, from the history of the graveyard, sections of plots and how these sections fell to ruin though this immoral practice. 

Archaeologists confirm how bones were strewn in the shallow soil and gravediggers started to lose their patience with the callous disrespect of management and eventually alerted authorities. It is now well known that Eastern Cemetery is the most over buried cemetery in America following the scandal and Facing East presents us with the full timeline.

Running a bit long, Facing East does not shy away from the details and it takes its time to tell the story, which is probably the reason for the approximately 90 minutes runtime. Although at times it gets slightly repetitive, Facing East is a very professional documentary that explains its subject matter through narration, good footage and plenty of experts featured.

From the history to the court case, it progresses to the current condition and management by non-profit organizations that show us what they are doing to salvage the cemetery these days. Nothing is left to question, which makes this documentary a full, informative and enjoyable view. Facing East keeps your attention while sharing its views on the abuse of this system and makes us aware of the corrupt ways in which places like these could be abused, while the families of the buried are unaware that their loved ones are sharing their plots with previous interments.

Technically, Facing East is a pleasure to watch. From the footage to the presentation, score and narration, it is interesting while hitting the emotional aspects of such corrupt procedures. This documentary is a good wake-up call for those who might not have realized that even the dead does not escape unfair treatment at the hands of the greedy.

--Tasha Danzig