Having consistently appeared in his films now since 1988, documentarian Nick Broomfield has become an iconic figure in non fiction film making. Best known for directing true crime documentaries such as Biggie & Tupac and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, Broomfield follows subjects that have ‘celebrity’ status allowing his style of filmmaking to become an investigation type process. Debuting at the TIFF this year, reports suggest that his newest feature Tales of the Grim Sleeper could be his greatest achievement yet.
The film focuses on serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr. who murdered dozens of women and one man over a 25 year period in Los Angeles. Broomfield sets out to examine how this killer slipped through the cracks for so long and continued to shamelessly slew victims for over two decades. The film attempts to open up debates regarding the Los Angeles policing system, and also indicates that poorer parts of the Los Angeles community have been neglected and left to fend for themselves.
Speaking to Indiewire, Broomfield explained there was little to go on when he began the project, and that preconceived notions are more or less irrelevant in the approach he takes to non fiction filmmaking. He says in this regard, “Don’t make something you call a documentary that’s really constructed—that doesn’t have that spontaneous energy, or that quest for reality. That’s what I like to see. Even if the film doesn’t work particularly well, as an audience member, you’re seeing this world that you don’t necessarily know anything about”. Broomfield has remained true to this concept for many years now, and having seen him struggle in numerous films to secure interviews with his subjects, there is a sort of amateur allure to his work that allows the spectator to feel he is very honest about what he is reporting.
In Tales of a Grim Sleeper, Broomfield is featured a lot less than usual, allowing his subjects to speak completely independently. Much of the film is led by ex prostitute and now activist ‘Pam’, who proved to be a critical part of leading the narrative as she helped Broomfield acquire information he would not otherwise have been able to access. Broomfield also commented on this to Indiewire stating that without the help of Pam and other people from the neighbourhood, essentially there would not have been a film.
This documentary is looking to be far more in depth than I can do it justice. Once again Broomfield has utilized himself on-screen to gain the utmost information to lead an insightful, thought provoking, yet thrilling piece of work. Picked up by HBO documentaries at the TIFF, Tales of the Grim Sleeper will air sometime at the beginning of 2015.