Funeral Director: Dealing With the Dead (2013) – By Philip Smolen

I admit that I get a bit creeped out whenever I have to attend a funeral service. Mortuaries always try to look like someone’s home, but never can quite pull the look off. Worse, the funeral directors (at least the ones I’ve met) smell like cloves, which always put me off. It’s almost like they’re not really human. And let’s not forget that there’s a preserved corpse lying serenely in a casket in front of the room, while family members and friends talk and laugh all around like it’s just a regular family get together.

British filmmaker Johnny Boston has put a human face to these folks who are there to help out when you need it most. “Funeral Director: Dealing With the Dead” is a remarkable documentary about a segment of the population most of us don’t really know much about (but have some pretty strong pre-conceived ideas about anyway).

Boston takes his camera to the annual Funeral Directors convention in San Antonio, Texas and interviews several dozen morticians about their careers. Most of them are delightful and seem to possess a true desire to help someone in their time of need; indeed, many of them got into the business as a way to aid their local communities. Some of them relate heart-breaking stories of loss to Boston that most of us couldn’t handle, including one funeral director who was holding a service for the seven month old daughter of a good friend. The grieving parents came over to the funeral parlor expecting a cold antiseptic atmosphere and were overwhelmed by emotion when they saw that their precious baby was treated with the utmost of loving care by everyone at the home.

A portion of the film is devoted to exploring the different types of products that funeral directors can use in their line of work. And some of them are pretty wild. From special sprays that can kill the worst odor to tricked-out limousines that can make transporting caskets a breeze, I am amazed that there is a market for some of these admittedly bizarre products.

Overall this is a fascinating film, told with humor and humanity.”Funeral Director: Dealing With the Dead” sheds some light on a portion of the population that most folks would prefer not to know about. It’s nice to know that most of them are just like us.

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