Serving Life

Serving Life is the first original documentary commissioned for the OWN Documentary Club, narrated and executive produced by Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker, and directed by Lisa Cohen.

The film takes viewers inside Louisiana’s maximum-security prison at Angola, where the average sentence is more than 90 years. The prisoners within its walls are the worst of the worst – rapists, kidnappers and murderers. With prison sentences so long, 85 percent will never again live in the outside world. Instead, the will grow old and die in Angola.

Serving Life documents an extraordinary hospice program where hardened criminals care for their dying fellow inmates. In doing so, they embark on a journey that may end in personal rehabilitation. “Serving Life reveals the humanity that exists inside each and every one of us,” said Whitaker. “In the Angola prison’s hospice, we meet inmates who decide to take an opportunity for redemption, reminding us of the connection that exists between each and every human being.” The volunteers are trained, pushed and tested. Some fail, but some succeed and discover that the human touch can reach the soul. “I thought maybe if I helped somebody else,” one inmate says, “that would help relieve some of the guilt.”

Audience response to Serving Life has been overwhelming. The documentary has now won over 10 awards, including the CINE Master Series Award and the Humanitas Prize.


Quotes About “Serving Life”


“I thought it was clearly an exploration of compassion, an exploration of redemption, and whether we can be redeemed in how far off we fall and bring ourselves back upwards. It’s a great statement about humanity.”
—Forest Whitaker

“The camera turns to the most gruesome aspects of the work and demonstrates how the most broken lives can find meaning in quotidian displays of compassion.”
—Ginia Bellafante, New York Times