Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart Image
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  • Summary: A small-town murder in New England became one of the highest-profile cases of the twentieth century. As the first fully televised court case, the Pamela Smart trial rattled the consciousness of America. From gavel to gavel, a nation tuned in, and reality TV was born. Pulsating with sex,A small-town murder in New England became one of the highest-profile cases of the twentieth century. As the first fully televised court case, the Pamela Smart trial rattled the consciousness of America. From gavel to gavel, a nation tuned in, and reality TV was born. Pulsating with sex, drugs, betrayal, and murder, the trial inspired 20 years of television shows, books, plays, and movies, including To Die For, starring Nicole Kidman and directed by Gus Van Sant. Expand

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 3
  2. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Reviewed by: Duane Byrge
    Aug 13, 2014
    70
    This smart HBO documentary convicts the media coverage and trial itself as guilty to Farce in the First Degree.
  2. Reviewed by: Dennis Harvey
    Aug 13, 2014
    60
    Zagar’s thesis — that overpowering media exploitation determined its legal outcome early on — is introduced in the very first shot, then hammered home harder the longer the pic goes on.
  3. Reviewed by: Gary Goldstein
    Aug 13, 2014
    60
    [A] well-crafted but frankly nonessential documentary.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. Sep 27, 2015
    7
    Pamela Smart is widely known for being convicted of conspiring and being accomplice to the murder of her husband Gregg Smart. Her trial,Pamela Smart is widely known for being convicted of conspiring and being accomplice to the murder of her husband Gregg Smart. Her trial, completed in 1991, was the first ever to be publicly televised in the U.S. Captivated challenges its outcome, giving voice to the actors in the controversy: director Jeremiah Zagar interviews Pamela Smart, the prosecutors in the investigation, the TV reporter that provided full live coverage of the trial, book authors, and many more people involved in the case. The film also features a great deal of video footage from the televised trial, TV shows and films loosely based on the event, as well as the original unreleased audio recording of Juror #13: a woman who secretly recorded her thoughts during the trial, one of the few voices of skepticism and rationality who questions the system rather than just accepting its absurdity.

    While watching the film we realise, with increasing horror and astonishment, that the media circus built around the investigation is growing out of control, and those involved are losing track of what really matters. Everything starts with the murder of a man, but what everyone cares about is getting a chance to tell the story in front of the camera. Captivated is particularly effective (and amusing) when it lets the old protagonists speak; when trying to debunk and reconstruct the official truth it works less smoothly, especially because the risk of not practising what it preaches, and falling prey to sensationalism and partiality, is always high. The finished product is strongly engaging, though, and delivers a clear message about issues that are all but outdated.
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