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Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
It is the defining cultural tale of modern America - a saga of race, celebrity, media, violence, and the criminal justice system. And two decades after its unforgettable climax, it continues to fascinate, polarize, and develop new chapters.
A groundbreaking six-part documentary directed and produced by Andrew Jarecki and produced and shot by Marc Smerling (the Oscar nominated behind "Capturing the Friedmans (2003)") delves into the strange history of real estate heir Robert Durst, long suspected in the still-unsolved 1982 disappearance of his wife as well as the subsequent murders of family friend Susan Berman and neighbor Morris Black. It features an extended, revealing interview with Durst himself, with whom Jarecki developed a unique relationship following the release of "All Good Things (2010)", Jarecki's 2010 feature about Durst's life starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst. "The Jinx" results from nearly a decade of research by the filmmakers, who expose police files, key witnesses, never-before-seen footage, private prison recordings, and thousands of pages of formerly hidden documents. Written by
Blurs the line between journalism and entertainment
The Jinx is a great show. I am not American, and I had never heard about the case nor the Durst family before this show. Going in knowing nothing led to some of the revelations being really shocking. The fact that the show is so exciting is at least partly due to the case itself being absolutely bonkers on many levels.
But what makes it more exciting is the wealth of information, people and footage they got access to. You really felt that you were thrown into the middle of an investigation, and saw the case unraveling in front of you. And Robert Dust is a compelling figure. It's difficult to place him as either an eccentric evil genius, or a lucky loony. Probably he is somewhere in the middle. Some of the stuff he does seems more like a bumbling fool than an educated criminal, while other things seems really well thought out. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. His mannerisms and just his character in general is also perfect for a show like this. Because despite everything: He can be pretty funny.
So, as entertainment it was really good. That said: I did not like the reenactments. It felt cheap and out of place, and was not needed for the documentary. There were other parts that should have been left out as well, like when they start annoying a man working security in one of the Durst buildings.
But I guess one of the more important questions to ask yourself here is: should journalism go more in this direction? Because this was, have no doubt about it, made to entertain. Here's my initial thoughts: Except the literal victims here, there are no other victims of this show that I can think of. The friends and family of both victims and others involved seems to have gotten their say, or at least had the chance to. The producers did a really good job researching and investigating the case, and the presentation seems truthful enough. The focus on Robert never turns him entirely into a movie character. Througot the series you start to understand him more as a human being. Or at least the producers impression of him. For now I am in the position that journalism is probably going to go more in this direction, but it is a dangerous path, for it can very easily focus too much on the entertainment and to little on the responsibility of a journalist presenting a case.
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