In 2015, two crime documentaries had the world talking, but for very different reasons. Making a Murderer (2015) presents the case of Steven Avery, who served 18 years in prison for a sexual assault conviction until he was exonerated with the help of improved DNA testing in 2003. Then two years later, photographer Teresa Halbach was last seen at his family’s auto salvage business to photograph a vehicle for Auto Trader Magazine. Avery was charged with her murder and back behind bars. Those who were gripped to the 10-part documentary, filmed by independent filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos over the course of ten years, believed he was innocent and set up by the Manitowoc County police.
Then there is The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015). A miniseries created by Hollywood filmmakers Andrew Jarecki, Marc Smerling, and Zachary Stuart-Pontier who interview multi-millionaire Robert Durst, questioning him about the unsolved 1982 disappearance of his wife Kathie, the 2000 execution-style killing of his best friend and writer Susan Berman, and the 2001 death and dismemberment of Durst’s neighbor Morris Black in Galveston, Texas. Durst is wealthy, articulate and, compared to Avery, everyone believes he did do it.
Just two days ago, The Jinx director Andrew Jarecki told Adweek that he thought Making A Murderer was: “Really watchable, but at the end of the day, I was left with a terrible feeling that I’ve not been shown an alternative version of the crime. They were saying it could have been these four people, but I’m like, if you worked on this for 10 years, I need to know that there’s another plausible person that could have done it. Leaving that out was troubling for me.”
He continued, “I want to believe Steven Avery is innocent because he was so mistreated by the justice system, but I also need to know there’s some solution in here. Otherwise, what are we doing for all that time?”
Well Jarecki, in the battle of crime documentaries, The Jinx comes out on top. Here are just a few reasons why we thought your documentary topped Making A Murderer:
6. Robert Durst Is An Endlessly Engrossing Person
When it comes to our crime documentaries, we like our suspected killers articulate, engrossing and with a defence ready for us to pick apart. 72-year-old Robert Durst is a multimillion-dollar heir to a Manhattan property fortune and he has quite the sense of humor for a man with an introduction on Wikipedia that reads:
- His first wife Kathleen (Kathie) McCormack Durst disappeared in New York in 1982
- He was the subject of a multi-state manhunt and ultimately convicted of dismembering, but acquitted for the murder of his neighbor Morris Black in Texas in 2001
- He was arrested in New Orleans in 2015 for the 2000 California murder of his longtime friend Susan Berman
The Jinx opens with quick-cut shots of a dismembered body which belonged to a man named Morris Black, who lived alone in Galveston, Texas, until Durst came along and ended that. Shortly after the body (all but the head) was found, Durst went on the run, causing a nationwide manhunt – only to be arrested after shoplifting a chicken sandwich, despite having $38,000 cash on him.
We then learn more about Durst, who was born in April 1943, the eldest of four children for real estate mogul Seymour Durst and Bernice Herstein. His grandfather had been an Austria-Hungry immigrant who came to the US with three dollars to his name but in 1927, he founded The Durst Organisation, which is now one of the wealthiest property companies in Manhattan.
Durst’s troubled relationship with his family began from a young age after his mother died when he was just 7-years-old. Then we are walked through even tougher times for Durst when, after the death of his father in 1995, he tried and failed to take a hold of the family company.
Durst is a sociopath, there is no question about it, but his ability – like all master manipulators – to draw you into him as a person is enough to keep you hanging on to his every facial tick, hard blink, gravelly voice and “take me or leave me” attitude for six episodes.