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DEATH AND TAXES

USA, 1993 (MIFF 1994, Documentaries)

Director: Jeffrey F. Jackson

America's Most Wanted. The target of one of the most intensive manhunts in FBI history was shot to death in suspicious circumstances, his body mutilated and burnt beyond recognition. What crime had decorated World War II veteran and North Dakota farmer, Gordon Kahl, committed to unleash such fatal powers of law enforcement? He refused to file a tax return.

Controversial and often gruesomely satirical, Death And Taxes eschews standard voice-over narration and a linear structure. Opting instead to embroil the viewer in this story of America at its most bizarre via incisive cross-cutting between footage of the recent exhumation of Kahl's body, TV news coverage, (including that of the 1983 shootout) and interviews with his wife, relatives, friends and IRS agents. Combining hard-hitting investigative reporting - in the spirit of films such as The Thin Blue Line and R - with the myth-making ingredients of the folk tale, Jackson dissects the two opposing views of this lethal conspiracy theory. Was Kahl a racist, guntoting fanatic (as portrayed by news media hysteria and the inevitable telemovie, In The Line Of Duty: Manhunt In The Dakotas with Rod Steiger as Kahl) or a folk hero, the victim of the Internal Revenue's policy of intimidating vocal tax protesters into silence as an example to all? On whichever side of the 'truth' you ultimately find yourself, the fundamental conflict at the heart of Death And Taxes, the right wing individualist versus the right wing state, make it a fascinating exploration of the disturbed psyche of a nation.

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