MOVIE REVIEW: TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR: NICK BROOMFIELD / SCREENPLAY: N/A / STARRING: LONNIE FRANKLIN JR., SEYMOUR AMSTER, CHRISTOPHER FRANKLIN, PAM BROOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The latest documentary from controversial filmmaker Nick Broomfield, Tales of the Grim Sleeper recounts the investigations on a serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper, who had been terrorizing South Central Los Angeles for 25 years until supposedly in 2010 when he was caught and identified as Lonnie Franklin. Along the way, we get talking heads from people who grew up in the community where Lonnie lived and where the killings happened, including some of Lonnie’s friends and family members, and how the case still affects them even to this day as it’s still an on-going investigation.
Nick Broomfield is a filmmaker who is quite well known for door-stopping people and trying to get footage of people who didn’t even want to be interviewed by him. Yet sometimes he can get too wrapped up with his own conspiracy theories and sources, particularly in the case of Kurt & Courtney, which was completely unfair to Courtney Love. But ever since then, he has appeared to have matured as a filmmaker and has made very strong films (e.g. Biggie & Tupac), and this is no exception. He doesn’t appear to invade or intrude people’s lives, but instead, let’s them give voice to their personal opinions and feelings as to why this case has shocked and resonated with them.
We don’t get any interviews with any LA officials, policemen or detectives involved with the case, which will become obvious as to why as the film goes on, but in a way, these people (from survivors to witnesses) are portrayed to be the real heart and soul of this community. We get a deep and thorough insight into their personalities and as we are going on this journey with Broomfield, we begin to question as to which is more shocking and outrageous - the legacies of sexual predation by this man who is believed to be the killer or the fact that police saw no indifference and kept it all supposedly hidden for the past 25 years? Broomfield never firmly decides which is which, and lets us as an audience decide.
As the documentary goes forward, we begin to slowly unravel the mindset of this man who had this sort of love/hate fascination with women, yet to some, he was seen as someone who, maybe was a tad odd, but yet was sweet and kind family man, and this ties into the message about how it’s not such a wonderful life. At the very end of the film, we get interviews with the other survivors and we get this moving portrait of women what’ve suffered in their own lives, not just by the Grim Sleeper, but also by the vindication of the police and politicians of LA as well. It’s a reminder that these women are in the end human beings, despite their addictions or desires.
In the end, Tales of the Grim Sleeper is one of Broomfield’s finest works, showing us an almost unsettling and maddening eye-opener for anyone that’s deeply involved or concerned about the stigma and horror of drugs, prostitution, poverty and political indifference to the poor in society.
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10
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