When indie distributor Uncork'd Entertainment first popped up on the scene, it seemed like you could primarily depend on them to serve up the latest and greatest films from the ultra-low budget horror scene. The truth is that Uncork'd has always been a bit of a hidden gem in the indie world and they've quietly built quite the catalog of indie flicks across a wide variety of genres including the March 17th release of the indie documentary Facing East.
Facing East tells the disturbing story of Eastern Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky, which is not so affectionately known as the "most over-buried cemetery in America."
If the phrase "over-buried cemetery" gives you a creepy feeling, then you're probably on-track with where Facing East is going to take you. With space for 16,000 graves on its 28-acres, as of early 2017 Eastern Cemetery had documentation indicating 138,000 burials. While some of this can be attributed to the early 19th century utilization of mass graves for paupers, it was revealed in 1989 by a whistleblower that the owner had been reusing purchased grave sites and was often reusing them multiple times.
While always sort of viewed as a lesser cemetery when compared to next-door neighbor Cave Hill Cemetery, Eastern Cemetery had long been considered no slouch with several highly esteemed persons buried within its grounds including former bandleader Art Payne, former Louisville mayor Philip Tomppert, a couple professional athletes, a couple respected local ministers, police officers, and others. The grounds were originally purchased by two Methodist Episcopal churches in 1844 and established Louisville's first crematoriums. At the time a whistleblower pronounced the truth of what had happened to Eastern Cemetery, it was owned by Louisville Crematories and Cemetery Company and it was revealed that bodies were being buried on top of bodies, graves were being randomly excavated for re-use, medical cadavers from University of Louisville were not being buried intact (as required by law), and human bones were found in a wide variety of inappropriate places.
Eventually, it was determined this had occurred at Eastern Cemetery since the 1920s.
Officials resigned and were charged with over 60 counts of reuse of graves and abuse of corpses, but no legal consequences were ever experienced by any of them. Eastern Cemetery eventually fell into chaos as all parties involved absolved themselves of responsibility and grave stones were vandalized, buildings broken into, the entire cemetery was vandalized, and the disrepair only magnified the tragedy of the exploitation of the often low-income families who had used Eastern Cemetery. Eventually, volunteers would begin the slow process of at least trying to clean up Eastern Cemetery and the non-profit Friends of Eastern Cemetery was established to aid in the process.
To this day, Eastern Cemetery is maintained by volunteers.
Facing East, written and directed by Tommy Baker, tells the story and tells it well including archival footage of the legal proceedings and an abundance of interviews with people involved in the restoration of Eastern Cemetery. While the low-budget doc is often hindered by sound mix issues, in some ways these issues enhance the grittiness of the story itself and the tragedy of a story without your usual Hallmark Channel ending.
Facing East has been picked up by Uncork'd Entertainment for a March 17th VOD release through your usual streaming outlets. The film tells an engaging, disturbing story about one community's tragedy and the ordinary citizens who united together and did something about it.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic