Crime Film Documentaries
Instructor: James R. Elkins
Crime Film Documentaries will focus on selected crime film documentaries.
The films to be screened will likely include the following:
on a Sunday Morning" (2001) (a 15 year-old African American high-school
student in Florida is charged with murder and successfully defended
by public defenders).
Keeper" (1992) (a reclusive farmer in upstate New York is charged
with killing his brother).
Thin Blue Line" (1988) (Errol Morris's acclaimed documentary
investigates the murder of a Dallas police officer; the film is credited
with freeing Randall Adams, the man originally--and erroneously--convicted
of the killing).
Staircase" (2004/2005) (a writer in North Carolina is accused
of murdering his wife)(and after the filming and airing of the documentary
2012 is granted a new trial and ultimately entered an Alford plea).
Lost" (1996/1999) (three young men in Arkansas are convicted
of killing three school boys in a case that became one one of the
most widely-known "innocence" cases in the United States)
(the defendants in this case, including Damien Echols, who was on
death-row in Arkansas, entered Alford pleas in 2011 and were released
from prison). As an alternative to "Paradise Lost" we might,
an an alternative watch "West of Memphis" (2012).
Wuornos: The Selling Of A Serial Killer--The 1992 Interviews"
(1992) & "Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer"
(2003) (an infamous female serial killer who was executed in Florida
in 2002; portrayed by Charlize Theron in an Oscar-winning role for
Best Actress in the film "Monster").
the Friedmans" (2003) (the Friedmans, father and son, in an upper-middle-class
Jewish family in Great Neck, New York, are charged with child molestation
in 1987 in a crime that received extensive media coverage).
at Oglala: The Leonard Peltier Story" (1991) (a film narrated
by Robert Redford, chronicles events surrounding the shooting of two
FBI agents on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975 that result
in the conviction of Sioux activist Leonard Peltier).
The course will meet one evening each week to screen the film and one
class each week to discuss the film that was screened earlier in the
week. The focus of the course will not be on the technical and theoretical
aspects of crime film documentaries. Our focus will be the criminal
justice system: prosecutors and defense lawyers, criminal trial judges,
and the alleged crimes committed by defendants (in some cases defendants
who are later exonerated). The documentaries raise significant issues
about shoddy police investigations, prosecutorial misconduct, coerced
false confessions, bogus expert testimony, biased judges, and ineffective
counsel. The course exposes what might be called the "shadow"
that accompanies our criminal justice system. All assigned course readings
will be found, via the Web, on the course website (or made available
to you as Xerox handouts). For each film, you will be directed to an
array of reading materials (books, articles, and web-based resources)
relevant to the film. It will be your responsible to peruse these materials,
either before or after the screening of the film. I will be available
to meet with you and discuss your work for the course (before and after
each class). Or, you can schedule a meeting appointment by email and
I will try to meet with you at a more convenient time. My office is
evaluation of your work in the course