Hot Docs 2014 Review: The Trials Of Pamela Smart
What you are about to see is theatre, director Jeremiah Zagar cleverly announces at the start of his documentary. It’s subjective in that there can be no real objectivity, especially when making a film about the effects that cameras have on people. Who’s to say what we’re seeing is normal behavior? The spotlight is on, after all.
Sure, this is a widely understood in the field of documentary films, but here the point is brought into such powerful stark relief through deft direction and compelling insight.
Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart is utterly fascinating and evocative. Smart became the object of such massive media attention and scorn in 1990 when her husband Gregory was shot and killed in their small New England Town.
The brilliant dissection deals with how this trial became a massive televised public spectacle and was completely and irrevocably manipulated by the media. Movies, books, and salacious stories arose, and everyone concluded their own narrative before even learning the story. There were those looking to make it big in the spotlight then, and even those that want the same today in talking about the case; the doc has some light moments in the absurdity.
It’s stirring and rife with fascinating interviews, but it’s not about making a case on either way (never mind the arcane laws that are keeping Smart in jail for life). Even the evidence and testimonies contradict one another, but therein rests the meaning and many, many questions – ones that were never asked.