Documentarian Kirsten Johnson and her 86-year-old father, Dick, film him dying in dramatic ways as a way of coping with pain.

By Nick Romano
September 15, 2020 at 12:12 PM EDT

It's hard to come up with a logline description for Dick Johnson Is Dead, a standout film from documentarian Kirsten Johnson out of the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Luckily, there's a trailer to show how magical it is.

Dick Johnson Is Dead is a tribute to Johnson's father, Dick, and a way for her to cope with his deteriorating memory. "Now, it's upon us," she says in the trailer, "the beginning of his disappearance."

The way she copes with the pain of knowing she'll one day lose a loved one is through comedy — specifically, using her vast knowledge of movie magic tricks to stage various ways in which Dick dies. And Dick seems to have fun doing it.

"I suggested we make a movie about him dying. He said yes," Kirsten says.

Kirsten, who previously directed Cameraperson and served as the cinematographer on Citizenfour, won the 2020 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Award for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling when the film premiered at the festival in January. Dick Johnson Is Dead will now premiere on Netflix this Oct. 2.

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