In 2009, just after Be The Shoe released it’s second feature film, I met Nick Berardini, a broadcast journalist at the beginning of his first documentary. He’d been reporting on a homicide - small town cops had pulled over a man in his twenties to settle a high school vendetta, and Tasered him until he was dead.
His movie came out on iTunes late last year — Killing Them Safely. I watched it, because while I’m not big on documentaries, I wanted to see what had come of this project after years of reporting and recutting.
A few weeks later I watched Making a Murder, because lot’s of people were talking about it. I quit after two episodes, livid. If you’ve seen it, if you’ve seen the posts and tweets and reviews, you know why.
But I stopped there. It bothered me, not out of a sense of injustice. It bothered me because I kept comparing it to Safely. Beradini’s movie is good, in part because his research is meticulous and he’s not looking for villains. You see police that swear by Tasers as a way to subdue dangerous people, a beat officer who heard it could kill someone and doesn’t want to take that risk, a founder who, by all accounts, genuinely believes he’s saving lives. There are a few indefensible characters, but they aren’t the focus. The film’s only discernible agenda is to make the audience think about the whole picture.
Making a Murder was trying to make me angry. And it was succeeding.
I don’t know or care about the merits of their investigation. But I know something about making movies.
I remember when Fox News was a driving force in early 2000’s politics, and people were blown away by their complete disregard for facts, how it was nothing but the rage-entertainment for aging racists.
And you know, the demographics are different, but I’m pretty sure Making of a Murder is doing the exact same thing.
Who can blame them? My social feeds are filled with articles peddling a vicious breed of identity politics, where everyone around is either “standing” with you or a homophobic racist mysogonist complicit in assorted forms of oppression.
The point of this isn’t to accomplish anything; it’s to get you to click. And binge. And then do more of it. Rage is a drug. And you too can be an adrenaline junkie from the comfort of your own couch, if only you can read about enough injustice in the world.
If you were philosophically inclined, you might ask what should be the purpose of a documentary. Better yet, what’s the purpose of art? Is it to enlighten? To entertain? To build empathy? To tell stories?
Perhaps. But I’m pretty sure it’s not to make you pissed off all the time.