The Blotter Presents 147: Belly Of The Beast, Coded Bias, and Target Practice

Plus the AFI DOCS fest, "The Search," and Ice-T's timely feature

I’m flying solo on a film-festival “staycation” in this week’s podcast. In the Most Wanted section, I’m reviewing two entries from the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Belly Of The Beast and Coded Bias. I’m sure they’ll both make their way to TV/streaming soon — but the festival’s still on until June 20, and I recommend both, so you may want to grab a virtual ticket before Saturday.

In the Cold Case section, I spoke with Target Practice writer/director Yasmin Neal about the 2019 short whose case really isn’t cold at all. Did “Strange Fruit” inform her story, or did the story lead her to the song? How does one direct a kid in a narrative with such heavy issues? We discussed all that and more; you can listen to Episode 147 right here. — SDB


Speaking of “Strange Fruit,” a strange coincidence ended up connecting two properties I’ve contemplated recently. Watching Target Practice, I did a little Googling on the history of the song, which hangs so heavily over that narrative…and found that it was written by one Abel Meeropol. The song began its life as a poem called “Bitter Fruit” that first appeared in a teachers’ union publication, but reading the Wikipedia entry, I was like, didn’t I just see that name in Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story Of Roy Cohn? And I had: Ivy Meeropol, the director of Bully, is Abel’s granddaughter. Abel’s adopted sons were the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, whom Cohn railroaded all the way to the electric chair; Abel and his wife adopted the boys after the Rosenbergs were executed.

Bully airs tomorrow on HBO; my review on Primetimer won’t go live until tomorrow morning, but my tl;dr rec is to DVR the doc. It’s infuriating and compelling. — SDB

Thanks to Best Evidence contrib Susan Howard for tipping me to a Sarah Weinman event at Politics & Prose. Real Lolita author Weinman has an anthology coming out next month called Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession, and the P&P Live! series is hosting her — and contributing authors Emma Eisenberg, Sarah Marshall, and Blotter heroes Pamela Colloff and Rachel Monroe — on Wednesday, July 29 for an online discussion. Registration is open; I’ll see y’all there, I hope. — SDB

What are you listening to? Reading? Watching? We love to hear from you; you can leave us a comment,

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or, if you only want our eyes on it, you can send an email to editorial at the-blotter dot com…OR call/text us at 919-75-CRIME. Recommend a doc or article, vent about a crackpot theory, or ask to inspect Sarah’s dad’s Zodiac glasses for yourself.

A few current and upcoming projects to add to your watchlists…

  • Crime Stories: The Search is out on Netflix. It’s the second season of the anthology series, which per Decider focuses on “fictionalizing famous Mexican murder cases” (although Netflix has it listed only as The Search, and this story as the first season); this installment is about Paulette Gebara Farah, a four-year-old girl who went missing from her bed in a suburb of Mexico City in 2010. After a nine-day search that dominated the headlines, Paulette was found — and the circumstances thickened the plot to a concrete-esque consistency. [Netflix]

  • The Lost Boys Of Bucks County debuts June 22 at 9 PM ET. The two-hour special re-examines “the 2017 murders of Jimi Patrick, Dean Finocchiaro, Mark Sturgis, and Tom Meo on a farm in Solebury Township” in Bucks County. (For reference, Bucks is northeast-ish of Philly and sort of tucks under the “chin” of Jersey; it’s where Sesame Place is.) [Investigation Discovery]

  • Ice-T and Naughty By Nature’s Treach want to get their new film, Equal Standard, onto a streaming service. Released last month on VOD, Equal Standard features the stars playing “play rival gang members (Bloods and Crips) who attempt to unite as their neighborhoods deal with a rash of shootings of unarmed Black men by white police officers.” You can watch an interview Ice-T did with PIX11 about the movie last month for free, or rent it now if you don’t feel like waiting for Amazon or Hulu to pick it up. [the Equal Standard website]

  • And the AFI DOCS film festival is underway. I have a press pass; if you’re “attending,” you can check out the Roy Cohn doc here, as well as Coded Bias, provided the screenings don’t sell out. Here’s the full film guide for the fest, which runs through Sunday. [AFIDOCS]

Thursday on Best Evidence: Alex Gibney’s new business partners, how true-crime podcasts perpetrate myths of fairness, and more.

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