True Journalistic Filmmaking

Andrew Jarecki achieved something extremely important with his 2015 HBO documentary miniseries called The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. He covered the life of real estate heir, Robert Durst, and the three suspected murders that he supposedly performed. Jarecki was able to interview Durst and get his side of the story before he was retried for the murder of one of his good friends. Jarecki paints a vivid picture of Durst through addressing his upbringing and getting Durst to speak about everything that happened.

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Jarecki did what few can do. He made me feel like I was talking with Durst. He made me feel like I knew him. He made me sympathize with him. I, like Jarecki, liked Durst. He was a “poor little rich boy” who never got the attention he deserved. He was misunderstood. But, unfortunately, he also was a murderer.

Jarecki painted this picture of Durst through six installments that all covered different areas of Durst’s life and the people around him. He made this miniseries with the suspense that documentaries rarely possess. It is impossible not to be on the edge of your seat as the series progressed. The dots started connecting. My opinion of him transformed from sympathy to disgust. Jarecki was fortunate to create this series before Durst was convicted. In fact, Durst was arrested for first-degree murder the day before the series finale aired. What could be better.

The final scene contains Durst admitting to murder while in the bathroom, unaware that his microphone from the interview was still on. One of the greatest endings for a film that I’ve ever seen. This was used in the case for his first-degree murder charge.

This is true journalistic filmmaking. This is making a movie that not only tells a story but has a motive. Although Jarecki’s motive for making this series changed as he uncovered more about Durst, he made something that was important. He is partially responsible for justice being served. He investigated and discovered things that authorities could not. Like Errol Morris did with The Thin Blue Line, Jarecki helped people with a film.

He exhibited that documentary filmmaking is more than just storytelling. It’s investigating. It’s creating. There’s always luck involved but it’s changing the world.

 

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