By Kathryn O’Kane
There is no doubt that the “true crime” documentary genre is thriving and that such film and television projects are enjoying unprecedented buzz. Studies show that women are their biggest audience, and broadcasters are taking notice. By the nature of their work, non-fiction storytellers are always considering how to present and represent their subjects through the creative process. But how is that further complicated in the “true crime” space, when the stakes might literally be life or death? Where do they draw the line between journalism and entertainment?
New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) is hosting a panel of filmmakers and network executives who will discuss the brass tacks of telling these stories and examine their ethical boundaries and sense of responsibility in developing relationships with individuals whose lives or livelihoods are on the line.
NYWIFT board member Kathryn O’Kane sat down with Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker Bari Pearlman, who is also the Director/Producer of two forthcoming episodes of CNN Death Row Stories (Jigsaw/Sundance Productions), to talk about this phenomenon ahead of their upcoming panel: True Crime Stories: Relationships and Responsibilities on Wednesday, October 25th, 2017, at the Tribeca Film Center.
Kathryn O’Kane: Bari, you and I have known each other a long time, since our very first project together for Court TV, Shots in the Dark, a 90-minute special about crime scene photography directed by Derek Cianfrance. You’ve gone on to tell stories on a wide-variety of subject matter, from directing Daughters of Wisdom, a quiet and contemplative feature documentary about the first Buddhist nuns to live in a monastery in eastern Tibet to producing How to Dance in Ohio, a portrait of young adults with autism preparing for a spring formal dance. Is there a theme to the projects you chose?
Bari Pearlman: In the documentary films I have directed or produced, I’ve explored a range of seemingly unrelated subjects but if I had to point to something that unifies them it’s that they are all ways of exploring the idea of community, more specifically intentional community. I am fascinated by the question of what makes people choose who and what they identify with, what the implications are of having that identity, and how they navigate that choice. Thinking about the work that I’ve done recently on Death Row Stories, I’ve widened that idea to focus on the flipside of individual choice, where communities and society at large are operating within a judicial system that may not be serving its members fairly or humanely.
"As an Indian American actress, for me the shadow of Apu loomed larger in my life than I realized." NYWIFT Member Mellini Kantayya offers her take on the controversial "Simpsons" character - and subsequent fallout - in an insightful op-ed published in The Washington Post.READ MORE
The Mole Agent: Highlights from the NYWIFT Goes to the Oscars Q&A with Maite Alberdi, Marcela Santibañez, Julie Goldman
The team behind The Mole Agent, Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary, discusses its powerful impact, and how they created a film both so visually stunning and rich with character that The New York Times review believed the film to be partly dramatized. It wasn’t!READ MORE
As the Commissioner of the NYC Mayors Office of Media and Entertainment, Anne del Castillo has a very full and challenging job, juggling a lot of balls, especially now during COVID-19. A native New Yorker, del Castillo has more than 25 years of experience in film and TV production, public media, and arts and nonprofit administration. She discusses what's in her toolkit, and how she has led MOME "from cheerleader to crisis manager" during the the pandemic.READ MORE
Janine McGoldrick is a veteran entertainment executive who has created and implemented strategic distribution and communications campaigns for television and film, including for the 2017 Academy Award-winner "The Salesman." She discusses her work on that campaign, her initial transition from politics to entertainment, and making her first documentary, about an invisible disease that confounds doctors.READ MORE