Our perception of death is one of those things that matures with time, like a fine wine (or smelly cheese) and where we fall between cheese and wine usually determines how we handle the new deaths that enter our world as we grow older. But is death funny? I suppose it is a bit ridiculous, that something so well built as the human body and soul could one day simply cease, or be destroyed – and after we’ve lost all that weight, made all that money, kissed all those lovers, all for what?
Well, humor is as yet the best medicine the human experience has to offer on this question and you will find it in Kate Marks’ “7 Day Gig,” a short film supported by the National Minority Consortia (NMC) and currently featured in the PBS Online Film Festival.
Here our hero Jay is trying to honor his father’s memory by participating in an old Jewish tradition of “sitting Shiva” – sort of like a wake but with more drama, ripping your clothes, egg shells strewn about etc, his only problem is he has no one to do this with, and you got to have people. So Jay sets out to find his rag tag Shiva sitters on the Internet. You can perhaps imagine the subtle dark comedy that ensues, well handled by Marks and company. My favorite bit is Jay standing at his neighbor’s door trying to invite him to sit Shiva with him and his neighbor – seemingly occupied with other things – simply says “I hope you win,” and shuts the door on Jay and his sad little “party” flyers.
There are many more moments like this as Jay continues his recruiting efforts, he ultimately ends up with the classic comedy trio – little girl, old guy, guy in chicken suit. Marks’ timing and the wonderful cast she has gathered all help to give the serious work of contemplating death a light-hearted, communal feeling.
So in the end, is death funny? Well, we all process the aftermath of death differently, and we’re all children of cultures that have struggled with the question of how to honor the dead for eons, but the message of this wonderfully moving short is this – while we might all be strangers from the Internet to each other, we all understand the loss of death, even when we can’t explain it. And there’s something strangely wonderful about that.
Take the nine minutes and watch this little gem and do cast your vote for it. “7 Day Gig” is one of three shorts from the NMC featured in this year’s PBS Online Film Festival. You can catch them all at http://pbs.org/filmfestival. The festival will be live from June 16 through July 31, 2014.