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.
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.
'An Eye for an Eye'
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills