AFI Fest 2014 Movie Review: Tales of the Grim Sleeper

A compelling and heartbreaking true-crime documentary.
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Directed by Nick Broomfield, Tales of the Grim Sleeper is a chilling tale that epitomizes the quote attributed to Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

On July 7, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA, Lonnie Franklin was charged with 10 counts of murder and one attempted murder, for incidents occurring between 1985 to 2007.  He was also suspected in the deaths of many more due to the all the pictures and videos of women found in his home. As of the date of this review's publication, he has yet to go to trial.  What makes Franklin's case so bizarre is the fact that, if proven guilty, he was able to act with impunity for over two decades because of the complete and utter indifference to what was going on by both law enforcement and the community. 

In 1985, some South Central Los Angeles residents were unaware there had been up to 17 women recently murdered in their community.  In 1987, police knew a serial killer was active, but supposedly kept the information from the public until 2008.  Although responsible for not keeping the citizenry informed and appearing as if they didn't care what occured in poor African-American neighborhoods plauged by a crack epidemic, these serial killings are not solely the fault of the police. 

People involved with Franklin, who had 15 previous felony convictions and was deeply involved with stolen cars, knew something was going on, but their mistrust of the police caused them to remain silent rather than risk getting themselves in trouble.  One man was hired to burn a car for Franklin and noticed blood in it.  A drug-addict friend of Franklin's would go on photo shoots with him to party and witnessed Franklin torturing women. 

Broomfield went to Los Angeles to examine the story.  Pam, a former prostitue, helped make introductions and became an intergral component in getting some people to tell their story.  Richard, a friend of Franklin, was beaten up by the friends of Lonnie's son, Chris, presumably for talking with Broomfield.  However, Chris eventually sits down and reveals how luck and his own action were involved getting his father arrested.

Tales of the Grim Sleeper is a compelling and heartbreaking true-crime documentary that will hopefully serve as a warning to others about turning a blind eye to evil.   

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