2014 Sundance Docs in Focus: WHITEY: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V JAMES J BULGER

whiteyThe final film in this year’s Documentary Premieres welcomes back another Sundance alumnus: Joe Berlinger returns to Park City with WHITEY: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V JAMES J BULGER, an investigation into Boston’s most notorious organized crime figure.

Sundance Program Description:

Infamous gangster James “Whitey” Bulger wielded a mystique as the Robin Hood of South Boston. Fabricated in his hometown, Bulger’s legend captured the imagination of the entire country. Separating the man from the myth, this riveting documentary challenges conventional wisdom by detailing shocking new allegations.

With unprecedented access, filmmaker Joe Berlinger utilizes this past summer’s sensational trial against Bulger as a springboard to explore corruption within the highest levels of law enforcement. Embedded for months with retired FBI agents, Massachusetts state police, victims, lawyers, gangsters, journalists, and federal prosecutors, Berlinger scrutinizes Bulger’s relationship with the FBI and Department of Justice—an interaction that allowed him to reign over a criminal empire for decades.

Academy Award nominee Berlinger returns to the Sundance Film Festival for the sixth time with this mesmerizing and complex account of crime and corruption. WHITEY: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V JAMES J BULGER relates a universal tale of human frailty, opportunism, and deception and reveals the often-elusive nature of truth and justice.

Some Background:
Berlinger’s past Sundance titles include UNDER AFRICAN SKIES (2012), CRUDE (2009), METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER (2004), PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS (1996), and BROTHER’S KEEPER (1992, audience award). Joining Berlinger as producer is Caroline Suh, who was series producer for the Sundance Channel show Iconoclasts. Also from Iconoclasts, and executive producer of Berlinger’s PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY, is executive producer Sidney Beaumont, who shares the role with @radical.media’s Jon Kamen, Justin Wilkes, and Dave O’Connor (past credits include the Oscar winning THE FOG OF WAR, PARADISE LOST 3, UNDER AFRICAN SKIES, CRUDE, and METALLICA), and with CNN Films’ Vinnie Malhotra and Amy Entelis, serving in the same roles for fellow Sundance 2014 titles IVORY TOWER and LIFE ITSELF. Joining Berlinger again as editor is Joshua L Pearson, who edited UNDER AFRICAN SKIES and several episodes of Iconoclasts; and, as cinematographer, Robert Richman, who shot UNDER AFRICAN SKIES, METALLICA, and the PARADISE LOST trilogy, as well as Sundance alums WAITING FOR “SUPERMAN” (2010), THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE (2009), AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (2006), and AFTER INNOCENCE (2005).

Why You Should Watch:
Up until his arrest in 2011, Whitey Bulger had attained a mythic status in American popular culture – a crime boss who managed to evade local and federal authorities, vanishing into thin air for over sixteen years. When he was located and apprehended, his trial promised bombshell revelations. In his provocative film, Berlinger, no stranger to high-profile court cases, covers all angles available to investigate Bulger, his crimes, and his dealings with authorities, revealing a complex web of relationships that enabled the man to act with shocking impunity since the 1970s.

More Info:
As they become available, I’ll link to the film’s website, Berlinger’s Meet the Artist Sundance video profile and to his Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2014 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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