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FEB. 26-MARCH 5
An earnest Boston autodidact with a particular interest in execution—sound like anyone you know? Well, yes—documentarian Errol Morris fits that description, but so does the subject of his latest film. Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. tracks a self-styled engineer who undertook a crusade to make the electric chair, the gallows, and lethal injection more “humane.” It was Leuchter’s interest in gas chambers, though, that got him into trouble. After he was approached by a neo-Nazi, Leuchter went to Auschwitz, where he conducted tests that led him to conclude that there had never been any gas chambers at the camp. The film demolishes those supposed findings, but that hasn’t stopped people from criticizing Morris for giving Leuchter any more publicity. The director will no doubt field a few questions about the controversy when he introduces the film’s local premiere at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26. He will also discuss Vernon, Florida, his portrait of an offbeat town, which screens at 1 p.m. the same day. After Morris leaves town, this retrospective will continue with Gates of Heaven, an account of two competing pet cemeteries (at noon Sunday, Feb. 27); A Brief History of Time, based on physicist Stephen Hawking’s theories and life (at 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 27); The Thin Blue Line, Morris’s reputation-making account of a man wrongly convicted of murder (at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 4); and Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, a documentary fugue about four men and their relationships to nature (at 5 p.m. Sunday, March 5). At the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)