Dir. Nick Broomfield
Review By Greg Klymkiw
It's quite possible Lonnie Franklin Jr. murdered over 100 women. Undetected for at least 25 years, he ran amuck through South Central Los Angeles as the Grim Sleeper serial killer and even now, under arrest, charged with 10 murders and still awaiting trial, the idiot police are trying to piece everything together, now, rather than during the heyday of this madman. The police knew they had a serial killer on their hands in the 80s. They even had a forensic sketch, but they did nothing. After all, why should the police have bothered to make a serial killer connection between so many unsolved murders? Hell, why bother to make anything resembling a concerted effort at all? Most of the victims were poor African-American women and many of them were prostitutes, drug addicts, homeless, abused and/or alcoholics. These weren't women anyone should care about, least of all, the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD have always had bigger fish to fry. You know, like being on the take and/or randomly beating and/or killing young Black men.
So who ya' gonna call when you need answers?
Well, you don't need to call maverick investigative documentarian Nick Broomfield. Chances are, he'll call you or as is his wont, the surly, dogged, sniping Brit will drop by all on his lonesome. All this crusading pit bull needs is a whiff of incompetence, laziness, ignorance, racial inequality and/or social injustice.
So was the aromatic stench from the Grim Sleeper a Broomfield alarm bell.
The director of Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam, Kurt & Courtney, Biggie and Tupac, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer and host of other penetrating documentaries, has never let anything stop him, though sometimes he's placed himself in harm's way to get answers.
Usually, Broomfield goes it alone. He operates his own sound and has one cameraman. His research is often done on the fly with cell phones. Here though, Broomfield secures a full-fledged partner, a former (and self-identified) "crack whore" by the name of Pam Brooks who first falls in his lap as a subject.
She quickly and simply joins him at the hip, drumming up clues, additional subjects for interviews and essentially becoming Watson to Broomfield's Holmes. She's a marvel and joy to behold and in spite of the utterly sickening backdrop, it's incredibly uplifting and yes, entertaining, to see this woman quickly gain a sense of her own pride, self-worth, talents, intelligence and doggedness to rival that of Broomfield.
This Dynamic Duo end up doing a far better job than the LAPD, digging up a whole whack of people who knew Franklin but who now, in retrospect are able to shed light on his suspicious behaviour from the past (he loved boastfully waving his handgun before neighbours, friends and acquaintances). Most importantly, the pair discover more women who might well have murdered or, extraordinarily escaped being murdered by Franklin's choice methods of snuffing out his victims - a point blank shot from a .25 calibre handgun or just good, old fashioned strangulation. Franklin, you see, was a hobbyist extraordinaire. He photographed hundreds of unclothed women in provocative poses who all appear to be dead, or asleep. Some of these photos might even be more victims.
What Broomfield's film ultimately sheds a huge light upon is how a killer openly went about his tireless, prodigious business - pretty much in plain view. The LAPD, not surprisingly, refused Broomfield's requests to be interviewed. We only see the cops on camera through news footage wherein they're extolling their "genius" at cracking the case through good, old-fashioned police work. As Broomfield's film more than ably proves, the police pretty much did nothing, save for bragging about how much they did. "Hypocrites", "liars" and "pigs" are words that come appropriately to mind.
The real story here is how nobody did much of anything while one woman, after another and another and another, ad nauseam, were brutally murdered.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars
Tales of the Grim Sleeper is in the TIFF Docs series at TIFF 2014. Financing and sales come from HBO Documentaries.
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