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Israeli filmmaker probes forgiveness in documentary 'An Eye for an Eye'

Israeli filmmaker probes forgiveness in documentary 'An Eye for an Eye'
Rais Bhuiyan in the documentary "An Eye for an Eye." (FilmOption International / Ryan Bruce Levey Film Distribution)

The rehabilitative power of forgiveness is thought-provokingly explored in Ilan Ziv's "An Eye for an Eye," a documentary chronicling the death-row incarceration of a Texas serial murderer.

Dubbed "The Arab Killer," Mark Stroman perpetrated the state's first post-9/11 hate crime — shooting three different men he believed to be of Muslim descent in retaliation for the terrorist attacks.

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Even covered with tattoos, including a swastika, there was still something about Stroman that ultimately kept drawing the Israeli filmmaker back. It turns out Ziv wasn't alone — Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi who was left partly blinded by the attempted murder, not only publicly forgave Stroman but took up his cause, waging a tireless (but ultimately unsuccessful) legal campaign to commute his looming execution.

With its heavily accented first-person narration and insightful approach, the film recalls Werner Herzog's "Into the Abyss," another probing portrait of a Texas murderer who was handed the death sentence.

Ziv effectively interweaves the Stroman prison visits with interviews with his colleagues and chilling surveillance footage of one of those point-blank shootings. However, having the articulate Stroman's starkly written poetry voiced by actors proves distracting rather than poignant.

Still, in a retribution-driven era increasingly defined by hate-charged absolutes, "An Eye for an Eye" offers a decidedly more reflective vantage point.

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'An Eye for an Eye'

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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