Category: Discovery Process Reviews

With Mindhunter, David Fincher Gives Us a Thrilling Ten-Hour Movie

Overview: FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) interview imprisoned serial killers to help ongoing investigations. Netflix; TV-MA; 10 episodes. Worth the Wait: It’s been a long wait for Mindhunter. Since the project was first announced, hopes were high for a David Fincher-directed drama with Charlize Theron attached as an Executive Producer and there were countless of us counting down the days to the show’s October 13th debut on Netflix. Yet fans have nothing on the pair themselves, who first pitched the project back in 2009. But good things take time, and Mindhunter is very...

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VIFF: Caniba is a Thankless Endurance Test

Overview: A quiet examination of the current life of Issei Sagawa, cannibal killer. Norte Productions; 2017; Not Rated; 90 minutes. Why, Though: There is little reason to make multiple documentaries about a straightforward cannibal killer. Not only has Issei Sagawa been the subject of at least four varying documentaries about himself (Excuse Me For Living, The Cannibal that Walked Free, Interview with a Cannibal, and Cannibal Superstar) but he’s had a fair amount of pop culture influence. It’s not because new details arise about his heinous crime, or that he’s had a miraculous transformative experience, it’s simply because since the...

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Curb Your Cynicism: Long Shot is the Rare Feel-Good True Crime Doc

Overview: A young man is charged with murder, while his attorney goes to unusual lengths to prove his innocence; Netflix; 2017; 40 minutes. A Guy Goes to a Ballgame: The keystone around which the documentary Long Shot is built is a sad one: the 2003 murder of a 16-year old girl in Los Angeles. It wasn’t long before police zeroed in on the then 24-year old Juan Catalan, a father of two with no significant record (certainly none suggesting he was capable of murder). There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, but plenty of the circumstantial kind;...

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Strong Island Continues Netflix’s Streak of Strong True Crime Work and Imperative Race Commentary

Overview: One man looks at the traumatic event that changed his family forever, his brother’s murder. Netflix; 2017; Rated NR; 107 minutes. A Collective Grief: In the final minutes of Strong Island, filmmaker Yance Ford’s exploration into his brother’s murder, Ford asks “What are the contours of fear?” According to his brother’s killer, fear is what motivated him to shoot him William Ford, Jr. during an altercation at an auto body shop in 1992. His brother’s killer, a then 19-year old white auto mechanic named Mark Reilly, earns little attention from the filmmaker within the narrative. It’s a decision both...

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The Confession Tapes Takes You Behind the Curtain

Overview: A seven-part documentary series examines cases involving alleged coerced confessions from all sides of the justice system. Netflix; 2017; Not Rated; varying runtimes. Behind Closed Doors: For many years, the police interrogation room was off limits to the public. You were unlikely to ever see footage of the process of questioning a suspect unless you were on a jury or in that precarious situation yourself. But something changed in recent years. Scratch that; many things changed. For one, a viewing audience has demanded greater authenticity in its entertainment. I’m sure I’m not alone in watching an old Law &...

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How Sad, How Lovely: The Disappearance of Connie Converse

The Greenwich Village of the 1950s was 185 acres packed dense with the beats, bohemians and artists whose names are now legendary—Cage, Pollock, Motherwell, Kerouac—laying the groundwork for a folk scene that would explode in the coming decade, largely thanks to a young Bob Dylan. But Dylan wasn’t among the first singer-songwriters to flock to the Village. A young woman, fiercely introverted and uniquely talented, named Connie Converse preceded him by more than five years. Connie had been born in New Hampshire in 1924, a time that now may seem improbably far away, though plenty of her contemporaries are...

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Discovery Process: ‘Tales of the Grim Sleeper’

Discovery Process is an ongoing series taking a second look at true-crime-related films currently available on streaming services.  Overview: Filmmaker Nick Broomfield travels to South Central Los Angeles to talk to the family, friends, and survivors of the serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper. HBO; 2014; TV-MA; 110 minutes. Hidden in Plain Sight: In one of the many wrenching moments in Nick Broomfield’s 2014 documentary about the crimes of Lonnie Franklin Jr., Enietra Washington recounts the afternoon she accepted a ride from a friendly-seeming man in her neighborhood. Their car had barely turned the corner when, without provocation,...

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Let the Fire Burn is a Sober Look at a Nearly Forgotten Chapter

Overview:  Years of conflict between a communal Black Liberation group, its neighbors, and the city of Philadelphia came to a head with disastrous consequences in 1985. Zeitgeist Films; 2013; NR; 88 minutes. Long-Simmering Conflict: America in the 1970s was a particularly movement-driven time, with the idealism of the 60s giving way to a new righteous pragmatism. Determinism was out, and self-determination, often in the form of conscious and strategic organizing, was in. It was in this context that MOVE was was founded in 1972. Led by the charismatic leader John Africa, MOVE was a separatist collective of largely Black...

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