Tales of the Grim Sleeper (Nick Broomfield, 2014): United States/United Kingdom

Reviewed by Claire Waterhouse. Viewed in Hollywood at the AFI Fest 2014.

The first thing we see is the Earth and it feels as though we are actually looking down from space. The camera zooms in and the closer we get to actual Earth from Google Earth, we can more clearly make out the neighborhood and eventually the home located on this specific  street in South Central Los Angeles. We see a green house, cars, people and everyday activity captured as one moment frozen in time. Here we are, able to locate and watch this home from our computer, living in an age where technology is at our fingertips and yet a killer has been on the loose for over 25 years. This documentary by director Nick Broomfield explores the life and crimes of Lonnie Franklin, the man who is believed to be the “Grim Sleeper.” Nick Broomfield has had a life working in documentary films and has directed both Kurt & Courtney and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer. His documentary on Aileen Wuornes helped to prepare him for this investigation on serial killer, Lonnie Franklin. Nick Broomfield takes us on a journey and explores the life of Lonnie Franklin by interviewing his family, friends, and people living in the area. Broomfield is not the sole driver of this documentary, for he enlists the assistance of Pam Brooks, a former prostitute and drug addict as well as an ex-girlfriend of Lonnie. Through Pam, the documentary is given humor and a sense of direction in who Nick wants us to meet. Pam, Nick, and Barney (Broomfield’s son) drive around the neighborhood and inquire about anything that could aid this case. We also are given footage from local governmental meetings and hear from  a woman who has been with the case since the time the “Grim Sleeper” began his rampage. Margaret Prescod tells us about the victims and her fight from the beginning to have these murders given the attention they deserve. Margaret is the head of the Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders and also gives us insight into these crimes by talking her with us to public events attended by government officials and her questioning of the Los Angeles Police Department. At the beginning of the film we hear about Lonnie and the kind neighbor and friend he was but as we delve deeper into the investigation, we learn more about this man and the lives he lived. This film reminded me of the film Merchants of Doubt in that it also investigates a corrupt system and seeks to out those who have harmed our society and the people who live in it.

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