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A never-say-die project, on DVD

Lawrence Toppman
Lawrence Toppman
Lawrence Toppman is a theater critic and culture writer with The Charlotte Observer.

For every “Leatherheads” our region imports, there are a dozen filmmakers a friend of mine calls “graniteheads” – people who won't be stopped and butt their way through every obstacle. An unusual example has crossed my desk.

“Death, Taxes … and Chocolate!” comes from New Bern writer Andrea Levinson Stern and director Bud Dowdey. The main characters are people over 60 (which alone makes this a novelty) who agree to kill themselves when disease or despair grow unbearable.

They approach decrepitude over a 10-year span with wit and humor. The film includes a long but interesting lecture about the history of chocolate and a screed against “health fascists” who suppress alternative healers. But it's mostly a serious-minded comedy.

The movie was shot up and down the N.C. coast. It has played festivals, including the L.A. branch of the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival, where it won best original screenplay and best supporting actress for Fort Mill's Catherine Trail.

It has no distributor, though. That's partly due to the no-name cast, but also, the film is a tough sell: In our escapist world, only a small demographic of people are willing to watch a film about senior citizens plotting their deaths. But I'm in it.

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