Kirsty MacColl · Crack · Caliphate

Plus "Political Murder" and "Dopesick" casting

The crime
Kirsty MacColl was a gifted singer-songwriter most famous for her duet with hellraising Irish punk band The Pogues, the unlikely Christmas masterpiece “Fairytale of New York.” A few days before Christmas in 2000, she was killed in a freak accident during a diving trip in Cozumel, Mexico. The police investigation of her death resulted in a boat hand being charged for culpable homicide, despite eyewitness testimony that it was the boat’s owner, a multi-millionaire businessman, who was behind the wheel at the time.

The story
The 2004 BBC documentary Who Killed Kirsty MacColl?

tries to be both a celebration of MacColl’s life and an examination of the shady circumstances of her death. While she was killed in a matter of seconds, the cover-up around who was controlling the boat that overshot into the area where she was diving seemed to happen in the days after the accident. The boat’s owner, supermarket magnate Guillermo González Nova, initially said he was in charge, but did he mean he was literally steering it, or just acting as a captain? Was the boat hand, José Cen Yam, who received a two-year jail sentence and was fined just $90, responsible? Or was he paid off by the González Nova family?

For people more interested in the singer behind “...well so could anyone”

and Best Evidence fave “A New England”

the first twenty minutes introduces MacColl’s life with delightful clips of her stroppy, straight-shooting interviews.

As the documentary moves into the tragedy of her death, it remains compelling largely due to the honesty and openness of her family. While her son Louis talks about the shock of the accident, he doesn’t show the overwhelming fury of her mother, Jean. Inconsolable, 77-year-old Jean is driven to start the Justice for Kirsty campaign. Along with a small group of lawyers and human rights activists, she travels to Mexico to push prosecutors to investigate González Nova.

It’s probably wise that the filmmakers don’t try to build a case alongside showing Jean’s campaign, instead demonstrating how grief has driven her to such exhausting ends. Who Killed Kirsty MacColl? does better showing how enormous the loss of Kirsty MacColl was than in trying to answer the question in the title. Perhaps there’ll be a new version of this story one day, in an Unsolved Mysteries episode or a report into police corruption. In the meantime, this is more of a strong memorial to a much-missed artist than an expose of the injustice. — Margaret Howie


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The Night Stalker isn’t the only property Netflix is busting out in the first half of January. From director Stanley Nelson (The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution) comes Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy — which focuses on the way an epidemic of addiction was not only allowed but encouraged to decimate communities of color.

The doc hits Netflix January 11, two days before the Night Stalker series, so I hope that gives folks enough time to take it in before another property takes over the conversation. — SDB


The Peabody my esteemed colleague Rebecca Lavoie is talking about is the one won by Caliphate — which the embattled podcast has had to return. If you’re behind on the story, Erik Wemple’s piece in WaPo this past Sunday — two days after the New York Times retracted certain episodes of the pod — should bring you up to date. Wemple also digs into the Times response (which struck me as sadly familiar: a smarmily ineffectual-sounding “listening session”; apologies designed to garner credit for transparency from Dean Baquet). NPR also has a solid account of how “the Times resisted revisiting” the story and certain too-good-to-be-true claims within it until Canadian officials charged Shehroze Chaudhry of perpetrating a terrorism hoax.

But it’s not just the collapse of the story and the return of the award that had Twitter in a lather the last couple of days. It’s that the woman-identified reporter at the center of the kerfuffle got Mike Loganned (okay, not exactly, but humor me), and producer Andy Mills was “punished” by “having to” host top podcast The Daily on Monday of this week. Here’s Lavoie again, and I’d read the entire thread:

Mills co-created The Daily…after, according to The Cut, being encouraged to leave WNYC because he wasn’t quite a cartoonish enough sexual harasser for the public-radio station’s HR to act against him.

The story is a clown car of bigger capital-I issues — stereotyping of sources; fact-checking shortcuts; institutional misogyny; a certain Wild West quality to podcasting standards and practices, as The Verge points out — and once the performative self-inventorying and finger-pointing ebbs, it’ll probably reveal that we’re at a turning point in the life of the podcast medium. — SDB


Notes from a couple of other places you might read or hear me…HBO wrapped up a veritable onslaught of true-crime programming last weekend with the heavy, but worthwhile, The Art of Political Murder. An excerpt from my review on Primetimer:

Often a case figure appears in old footage before being introduced for a talking-head interview in the present day, and more than once, my notes read, "Phew, on camera/still alive"... just to give you a sense of how bleak the prospects seemed for a just result in Gerardi's assassination.

Another subtitle-heavy outing, but informative and well made, so check it out.

And I talked about this on Extra Hot Great this morning, but Hulu is stockpiling one hell of a cast for its adaptation of Dopesick, with Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Stuhlbarg joining the production as a Sackler. — SDB


Coming up on Best Evidence: Eve and I finally make good on our Forcening threats. In the meantime, have a very safe and happy holiday, and we’ll see you next week!


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