Making a Murderer (2015)
Filmmakers: Laura Ricciardi, Moira Demos
Genre: Documentary | Crime (10-part series)
In 2003, we see a very happy Steven Avery walking out of prison to the embrace of his family. With DNA testing, he has been exonerated of the 1985 rape of Penny Ann Beernsten. Episode 1 of this 10-part series starts with some background on the rape case, the Avery family and Steven. We learn that the Averys have an auto salvage business in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. Like most auto salvage yards, it’s a multi-acre eyesore with rows upon rows of rusting cars. We also learn that family members generally tended to keep to themselves and were viewed negatively by others in the community. Whenever things go wrong, the typical reaction is to accuse an Avery. Steven, in particular, seemed like a good bet for the rape, after serving two sentences in prison for relatively minor offences… crimes he readily owned up to.
But when they came looking for him for the rape, he not only denied it, he had a good alibi. The DA was not deterred. He built a case, using questionable tactics… and Steven spent 18 years in prison before being exonerated. The day after the exoneration, a Manitowoc deputy filed a report regarding a call he had received 8 years earlier from the sheriff of a neighboring county. The sheriff said Manitowoc was holding the wrong man for the 1985 rape… they had a prisoner who confessed to it. The Manitowoc sheriff had decided to ignore that information until they could no longer do so. With the spotlight on the miscarriage of justice, the state passed the Avery Bill to address systemic law enforcement issues. Steven also filed a lawsuit for $36 million, and those involved were being deposed. Days later, Teresa Halbach, a photographer for Auto Trader Magazine, went missing. She had been to the Avery property to photograph a van… so naturally, the sheriff came to arrest Steven Avery. Eventually, body parts were found and Steven’s 16-year-old nephew Brendan confessed to helping his uncle commit a grisly murder. Things looked about as bad as they could get for Steven and Brendan.
Making a Murderer is another of a new genre of programs featuring careful in-depth, step-by-step analysis of a true crime. Because it’s an actual case, you never know where it might go. If you enjoyed the podcast, Serial, or the HBO series, The Jinx, you will probably want to look for Making a Murderer on Netflix. Filmmaking graduate students, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos thought they were making a documentary about the 2003 exoneration... until it turned into a 10-years project about a murder. In addition to their own video footage, there are taped confessions, taped police searches, taped phone calls and news media footage. While some argue that the series leaves out meaningful information, it would be hard to argue that the information included isn’t meaningful. It would also be hard to believe in fair justice for anyone charged with a crime in Manitowoc County. In the end, it’s complicated… which is why you’ll want to encourage friends to watch it, too. That way, you can compare your impressions of the case and what you think really happened.
4 popped kernels
After a wrongful conviction and 18 years in prison, a Wisconsin man is charged with a grisly murder
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Streaming Video
Tempo: In No Hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism & Amateur Video
Nutshell: True crime
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative & Thought Provoking