When to Die

“When to Die” is a feature length documentary that examines the enduring legacy of the American Civil War through the phenomenon of Civil War reenacting, exploring both the hobby’s reinforcement and challenge to larger cultural trends that are – to this day – defined by the Civil War. Filmed over the final years of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War (2013-15), “When to Die” captures the journeys of four eclectic reenactors across the American North and South giving insight into the racial tensions and political divisiveness that plague the United States today and the challenges that come with memorializing the war. This collection of American stories casts light on country's unique passion for heritage, and the Civil War as a defining moment that continues to shape American society today.

  • John Paul Pacelli
  • Justin Miller
  • John Paul Pacelli
  • John Paul Pacelli
  • Justin Miller
  • Luther Johnson
    Key Cast
  • Jake Jennette
    Key Cast
  • Margaret Jennette
    Key Cast
  • Steve Fratt
    Key Cast
  • Will Krakower
    Key Cast
  • Linda Legare Barry
    Key Cast
  • Sarah Barry
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Historical, social awareness
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 35 minutes 19 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 30, 2015
  • Production Budget:
    77,645 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - John Paul Pacelli, Justin Miller

Justin Miller and John Paul Pacelli have been friends since grade school - a friendship forged over a shared passion for a film. In 2010, Miller graduated from Purdue University with a BS in Sales Management and a BA in English; Pacelli, a Masters Degree in Architecture from Tulane University. After fives years in their designated fields, Miller and Pacelli began to pursue their lifelong interest in film when they founded their own production company, Old Glory Productions. "When to Die" is the duo's production and directorial debut.

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Director Statement

We are drawn to the stories of everyday people that dig deep into the human condition and have the power to tell a larger story about the societies they operate within.

As opposed to dwelling on a purely historical re-telling of the Civil War, we took a fresh look at what the Civil War means to today, and were drawn to the manner in which a war, concluded 150 years ago, still affects the lives of Americans. We wanted to give the post-Civil War evolution of America a human dimension, and at its core, "When to Die" is series of character-driven, personal stories that convey the significance that history and heritage play in defining one's own identity.

Filmed from 2013-15, at a time defined by intense divisiveness and racial tension - of police brutality, the racially motivated shootings in Charleston, removal of Confederate symbols across the South; of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and the anti-establishment movement - we were inspired to make this film to be a springboard for a much needed conversation about the difficulties plaguing the current social climate of the United States. Issues that have their roots dating back to the Civil War.