Quick Documentary Reviews

I love true crime documentaries. I was always one of those kids who would get stuck on crimelibrary.com for hours in the middle of the night. That's probably super weird but it's hard to look away from the massive fuck up that is the criminal justice system sometimes. Over the past few weeks I've watched three docs about crimes or the prison system in general. I decided to share them all in one post.

13th (watched on Netflix Instant)

This is a documentary I expect to see on a lot of "best of" shortlists. I think it will rightly snag an Oscar nomination too. 13th follows the prison system in the United States and how it's unfairly structured to affect black men and women the most. It takes it's title from our 13th amendment. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” 

There are some very alarming stats in this doc, and they keep getting worse. I think many could tell you in broad strokes why the prison system is unfair, but this film will give you the specifics. It's one everyone should watch. It gives off a somewhat helpless feeling though. How does this get fixed for good and will the United States ever drop their prison population significantly? (The US has 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the prison population)
Grade: A

Southwest of Salem (watched on Youtube)

I had never heard of this case until Candice reviewed the documentary a while ago. This is so completely batshit that I'm shocked I never came across it in all those hours of mindless somebody hug me true crime reading. In 1994 four women in San Antonio, TX were accused of gang raping two young girls They were all lesbians and their trial sat on "this is what lesbians do." They were sent to prison for 15+ years, and only recently exonerated of the crimes after they went to a new trial and one of the victims recanted.  

The sad thing is even after they were paroled they had a judge tell them they couldn't fully clear them of the crime and needed to go through an entire new trial. The bias was still there, just not as strong. Since it was the early 90's, the prosecutor even threw in a little satanic panic for good measure. I wish they would've included a bit more information on the court cases but the doc was very solid.
Grade: B

Who Took Johnny? (watched on Netflix Instant)

This I was familiar with prior. I've read plenty of missing children cold cases. Johnny Gosch is an interesting (ie: depressing) case because the police department seemingly did fuck all to try to find him even after 1) People reported seeing a suspicious car near him 2) He had no reason to run away. 3) Another paperboy was taken two years later under similar circumstances 4) Someone confessed to helping kidnap him and being involved in a huge human trafficking ring. That last guy they never interviewed by the way. They talked to his siblings or something instead.

This doc is probably best for those who have never or vaguely heard of Johnny and his case. For those who have, it doesn't offer much new. In fact, they went pretty easy on the police department. They didn't go into much detail about the human trafficking ring either, but someone did write a book about that. Noreen Gosch is hard to watch. I think she was given some seriously bad advice on how to handle some of her claims after the kidnapping, and the police department labeled her as "pushy." (wouldn't you be if your son was missing and you were told to wait 72 hours to report it?)
Grade: B-

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (watched on Netflix instant) 

Okay, so no one got murdered or kidnapped, but there's lots of fraud going on. Kevin raved about this doc when we did Drew's Four Years a Best Picture project. I've had it in my queue ever since. I was a young teenager when this Enron fiasco was going on and it's something I never would've paid attention to back then. In a way, I was learning about Enron for the first time. I just knew they were a big company that went under. It's very by the books, interesting interviews, nice songs and transition clips. I think I could've actually watched more of it, it was so interesting. Anything about money kind of depresses me sometimes. Especially watching these execs get huge amounts of it while screwing over everyone else. In retrospect, I'm kind of shocked Enron went on so long operating the way it did.
Grade: A-


  1. 13th was a doc that I knew I had to see before the election and man, it pissed me off considering what this country is doing. Yet, I don't think anyone should be surprised into what was happening and what could happen. This is no longer the United States of America. How can we call that when everything is so fucked up?

    1. And we're only going to get worse on the "United" front.


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