As a fan of documentaries, I have a special fetish for particularly awful examples of the genre. Nick Broomfield's Kurt & Courtney takes the cake, as the hilariously desperate filmmaker interviews the least credible sources ever seen on film. More recently, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill concluded with the documentarian jumping out from behind the camera to reveal that she and the completely dysfunctional subject of her film were now an item. These transgressions into laughably bad filmmaking differ from When I Die in one important aspect: Those two films aren't NyQuil-boring, point-missing movies about one of the most interesting public figures in American history.
After Hunter S. Thompson's suicide last February, Johnny Depp footed the bill to honor Thompson's last wishes—to have his ashes shot out of a cannon in Woody Creek, Colorado. When I Die is a documentary about the execution of this final gonzo spectacle, and director Wayne Ewing fucks it up so bad that I had a hard time staying awake through the hour-long film.
When I Die is not a film about Hunter S. Thompson. With the exception of a very short clip at the beginning of the movie, there is no archival footage of Dr. Gonzo to remind us what an exciting, bad motherfucker he was. Instead, When I Die is a movie about—wait for it—construction workers and steel manufacturers. The physical construction of the 150-foot, fist-shaped monument that housed the cannon dominates 80 percent of the movie, much of which consists of time-lapse footage of iron workers. It's about as interesting as watching the erection of a new shopping center in Duluth, Minnesota.
Ewing was also apparently barred from filming the memorial ceremony, so we don't get to see the slightest bit of the tribute to the late writer (even Depp's nowhere to be found). So if you're a fan of rivets and arcwelding, don't miss this movie! If you're a fan of Thompson's, however, I suggest you just curl up with your copy of Fear and Loathing.