TV Spotlight: The Jinx- The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst
By: Megan Shea
HBO’s miniseries The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst premiered in February and concluded in mid-March, which, as you’ve probably just gathered, means I had either been living under a rock or was very late to jump on the bandwagon. If on the off chance you’re in the same boat as myself, I’ve just found that new favorite show of yours.
As most HBO documentary-style series, The Jinx proved an entrancing piece with not nearly enough episodes. Throughout the six episode series, filmmaker Andrew Jarecki interviews and develops a peculiar relationship with the lead suspect in the disappearance of his first wife, murder of friend Susan Berman, and murder and dismemberment of neighbor Morris Black- Robert Durst. The series gained exposure after Durst was arrested on first-degree murder charges the evening before the finale was to air based on new evidence unveiled through the investigative journalism of filmmakers.
For four decades, Robert Durst, the son of New York real estate mogul Seymour Durst, remained uncooperative with media attention, refusing interviews and denying all accusations. After breaking this period of silence by reaching out to filmmaker Andrew Jarecki, the two began a series of interviews with over twenty hours in footage captured over a several-year period.
In a monumental example of investigative journalism, Jarecki and his crew paint a vivid back story to Durst’s early life- interviewing family members, friends, defense attorneys, and just about everyone else involved. After decades of tactful answering, manipulation, and the best defenses money could buy, Durst’s evasion of the justice system seemed as though it would only continue. With unlimited resources as an heir to a major empire, Durst hired a team of defense that successfully turned charges of the murder and dismemberment of Morris Black into a self defense case culminating in acquittal.
It didn’t take a slimy, conniving interviewer to bring Durst down. When presented with new evidence that linked him to Berman’s death, Durst proved instrumental in his own downfall. With his mic still hot, it was Durst’s own ramblings that incriminated him and gave filmmakers a moment of television journalists only dream of. “There it is, you’re caught,” and with that sentence, Jarecki’s project had become evidence. Jarecki was sitting on a career-making confession that others had tried tirelessly to coerce before him.
The Jinx was more than just a series appealing to those of us oddly entranced by True Crime-esque stories. It appealed to just about every other sense- crafted in a way that was visually edited to be a piece in and of itself. It was an example of investigative journalism that took walking on egg shells and persistence, resulted in something absolutely groundbreaking in cases decades cold. It was all in how this confession came about- completely in the spotlight- that captivated audiences and critics alike. It was the perfectly timed storm in a filmmaker and journalist’s dream.
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