The HBO program The Jinx raises some interesting questions about where the lines exist among the genres of documentary, true crime dramas, reality TV, and entertainment.
In my opinion, documentary film making is a form of journalism. It should convey the truth with ethics, accuracy, clarity, aggressive research and reporting.
The Jinx ended Sunday with Robert Durst confessing to murders the police in 3 states have suspected him of for years. His audio from a live but forgotten mic worn in the bathroom recorded him whispering to himself: “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
Andrew Jarecki’s six-part HBO series was subtitled The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst. The series laid out the evidence against the 71 year old millionaire for the disappearance of his first wife, Kathy Durst in 1982, the 2000 murder of his friend Susan Berman, and the killing and dismemberment of his neighbor Morris Black in 2001.
While this program assumed the role of the prosecutor, my opinion is that a documentary should not have a biased position.
One should value clarity of facts over withholding information for dramatic effect. A case in point is that it is claimed that this bathroom recording was just recently discovered, when the recording was made 3 years ago and it happens to be released at the finale of the show.
One could go on with many more examples, but let me summarize by saying that Andrew Jarecki is not a documentary film maker by trade. In fact he has told this Durst story before, as fiction. He made a film called All Good Things with Ryan Gosling, released in 2010, which was a fictional portrayal of the Robert Durst story.
In today’s world I believe that the line between journalism and entertainment has become quite blurred, and The Jinx is another manifestation.