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Does everyone deserve a respectful burial? How a terrorist’s body divided a city

Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.
– lines attributed to William Ewart Gladstone, and quoted on the website of the Graham Putnam and Mahoney funeral parlour

On 15 April 2013, a day of striving and celebration turned tragic in an instant, when two improvised pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring more than 250 people. Amid a manhunt, one of the two brothers responsible for the attack, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, murdered a security guard before he was killed by police. The other brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was later apprehended alive.

Originally produced to accompany the podcast series Everything Is Stories, this short film from the US filmmaker Daniel Navetta tracks a controversy that emerged in the wake of the tragedy. With many in the Boston area reeling with outrage, the undertaker Peter Stefan – owner of Graham Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester, Massachusetts – made what he believed to be the ethical choice of preparing Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body for a Muslim burial: a job refused by other nearby funeral homes. Detailing Stefan’s view of the controversy, Everything Is Stories: Reviled and Maligned explores how, amid public anger and protests, he resolved to perform what he believed to be his solemn moral and professional duty.

Director: Daniel Navetta

Producers: Neil Kopp, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani, Daniel Berger

Website: Bryght Young Things

8 September 2020

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