16 Shots, a documentary about the police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, was initially a much narrower film called Blue Wall. The movie, which premiered on Showtime on June 14, is the lead topic on this week’s The Blotter Presents podcast. Sarah’s joined by Kevin Smokler to discuss the film, which director Richard Rowley wrapped before Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke faced a trial in the shooting.
After Showtime picked up the doc, Rowley reportedly convinced them to foot the bill for an additional shoot, including scenes from within the Van Dyke trial. (He was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison, and has faced a rough time while in lockup.) Sarah and Kevin agree that the movie is heartbreaking and compelling, but differ when it comes to Jason Van Dyke’s awareness of his own guilt. -- EB
For this week’s Cold Case portion of the pod, Sarah and Kevin looked at The Thin Blue Line. It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone who subscribes to this publication isn’t familiar with the seminal 1988 doc, but just in case, there’s a trailer above. The big question, really, is how this movie (which I had to watch in the documentary unit of a college film class, how about you?) holds up for true-crime consumers these days.
One challenge might be that many of the techniques director Errol Morris pioneered in the movie (for example, the straight-on talking-head interview or scene re-enactments) are now so standard for true crime docs that they feel like a bit of a yawn, as opposed to the revelation it was at the time of its release. (The same way Romeo and Juliet felt a little “heard it!” in a post-West Side Story world.) If listening to their chat on the movie inspires you to check it out again, drop us a line and let us know how you think it’s aged. -- EB
In the Blotter Brief post-show episode (which is available only to Patreon sponsors, who also get a free paid membership to this very publication), Sarah and Kevin offer a further dissection on the legacy of Errol Morris. The 71-year-old director is kind of having a moment: he published a weird piece about pianist Sviatoslav Teofilovich Richter in the NY Times last week (there’s no true crime to speak of in the multimedia article, which you can read here). In addition, his directorship of an AT&T commercial is the subject of a moderately-reviewed play called Dropping Gumballs On Luke Wilson, in which Morris is portrayed as a “swaggering bully,” and “a tyrannical perfectionist who thrills at his own gravitas.” -- EB
Essayist Tirhakah Love says that Netflix’s true-crime properties are evidence that the streaming service is “cashing in on the enveloping darkness across the pop culture sphere.” Writing for the San Francisco Chronicle, he says that the platform has made an “investment in human depravity” that is evidenced by “scrolling through the true-crime genre.” Is it -- and, therefore, are we -- as bad as all that? Check out his piece and let us know what you think. -- EB
If Who The Hell Is Hamish?’s conclusion has you hungry for more Australian crime, Where's William Tyrell? might fit the bill. The podcast, which launched this weekend, is about the disappearance of a three-year-old from a home in New South Wales. The incident, which occurred in 2014, led to a campaign called “Where’s William” that as of publication time was offering a $1 million reward for information that leads to his recovery. You can learn more about the case here and here, and listen to the pod’s first episode here. -- EB
Keeley Hawes will play a real-life cop in ITV’s adaptation of the death of Banaz Mahmod. Hawes, who I will think of as a “mum” for a good long while after her appearance in Bodyguard, will play Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode, who brought the people behind the so-called “honor killing” of Mahmod to justice. The thrust of the two-part drama is already spurring protest, as writer Furquan Akhtar tells the BBC that "this story is about Caroline, not Banaz. That's problematic." According to a press release from ITV, filming for the show, which is called Honour, will begin in September. -- EB
Thursday on Best Evidence: True Crime Chronicles, Free Meek, and alleged ghosts!
What is this thing? This should help.