Killing Time

Society & Culture
Jaap van Hoewijk
VPRO Television and KVFilms
IDFA Competition for Dutch Documentary, Special Mention at Krakow Film festival 2014
HD available

When Elroy Chester was convicted for raping two teenage girls and killing their uncle in 1998, he was sentenced to death. Chester spent 15 years on death row, but now it’s June 12, 2013, and the long wait has come to an end. In Huntsville, Texas, preparations are being made to carry out the sentence. At precisely 6 p.m., Chester will be put to death by lethal injection.

While his family prepares for a sad farewell, members of the victims’ family look forward to the closure of a long period of grief. Jaap van Hoewijk’s first feature-length documentary, the 1995 film Procedure 769, Witnesses to the Execution, focused on the people who come to watch the sentence getting carried out. In Killing Time, he shifts his attention to the next of kin as they and Chester watch his last hours, minutes and seconds tick away. Everyone kills the time before the execution in his own way. With his final moments approaching, we hear frank accounts from Chester’s sisters as well as the rape victims and their family. Occasionally their words are filled with hatred, but at other times the tone of their emotions and experiences is surprisingly nuanced.

Meanwhile, the media circus is descending on Huntsville to report on Chester’s execution. And all this takes place against the backdrop of the certainty that many others will follow Chester. He was the 499th person in the state of Texas to be put to death since 1982, and there are 300 more convicts in Texan jails awaiting the same fate.