Playing God


How much is a life worth? What is the monetary value of a livelihood lost to a man-made environmental disaster? How do you put a price on losses of this magnitude? These are the vexing questions Kenneth Feinberg routinely wrestles with in his role as the overseer of funds disbursing tens of billions of dollars for damage claims and death benefits. If you were applying for compensation for the loss of a loved one when the twin towers went down on September 11 or a shrimper with no shrimp to harvest in the wake of the BP Blue Horizon disaster or a Vietnam vet who has cancer after exposure to Agent Orange, you had to talk to Feinberg. To some claimants, he’s an impersonal devil and to others he’s a benevolent angel. In Playing God Feinberg makes clear that he’s simply fulfilling a role made necessary by the American legal system where everything—including a life—has a price. Interweaving interview and archival footage, director Karin Jurschik shadows Feinberg as he makes the rounds meting out financial justice, where he plays both judge and jury. —Mark Valentine

Subject Kenneth Feinberg in person in San Francisco

Karin Jurschick was born in Essen and studied Theater, Film and Television at the University of Cologne. Co-founder of the international women's film festival Feminale in Cologne, she also worked for five years as an editor for the culture department of the Stadtrevue Cologne monthly magazine. Also active as a writer for radio and television, her award-winning films include: It Should Have Been Nice After That (2000), The Peacekeepers and the Women (2003), After the Murder of Theo van Gogh (2005), Not Anymore (2006), an episode of 24 Hours Berlin(2008), Certificate In German (2009), The Cloud, Chernobyl and Its Consequences (2011), and On the Rail of Evil (2012).

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East Village Entertainment, Diana Holtzberg: