MIFF 2015: Tales of the Grim Sleeper

­­Nick Broomfield rolls into the ghetto. It is an unpleasant place. There’s trash everywhere and hookers on every corner. He is investigating a spate of murders that took place in an underprivileged community in South Central Los Angeles over a 25-year span. He is here looking for answers.

There are probably over 100 victims, or so the story goes. The Grim Sleeper tortured and murdered prostitutes and crack heads. He hunted them like wild animals, dumping their bodies on the side of the road, in the garbage, in seedy alleyways alongside other dead bodies. He offered them cocaine in exchange for lewd sexual acts. He would fuck them, take their picture, and then kill them. Sometimes he would just kill. Sometimes he would just fuck.

The police don’t seem to care. The Grim Sleeper haunted this community for 25 years and nobody seems to care. When the police announced in 2010 that they had arrested the Grim Sleeper, they claimed that it was due to years of intricate investigative work. Throughout Tales of the Grim Sleeper, Broomfield rebuts this statement, arguing that the law has no time for the slaying of black and underprivileged women. The Grim Sleeper is simply cleaning up the streets, so the police don’t have to.

Broomfield is baffled as he listens to the stories of the people who came within close proximity of Lonnie Franklin Jr.. He listens respectfully as crack fiends and prostitutes tell tales of torture, sadomasochism, drug abuse, orgies, displacement and the nonchalant, non-committal responses from police.

Tales of the Grim Sleeper is the exact documentary you came to see. It’s all violence and sadness and hopelessness. Nick Broomfield asserts himself fully, as he usually does, venturing deep into the seedy underbelly of a community neglected by our society. He opens our eyes to the void facing these people, worsened by decades of institutional racism, drug abuse, economic hardship and segregation.

This timely documentary encourages us as a society to reevaluate how we treat the underprivileged. Broomfield affords a voice to those whose words have been stolen, to the plight of our neighbours left to rot and die in ghettos not too far from economically and socially booming major cities. He’s asking the right questions and screaming words heard a thousand times before: it’s time for a fucking change.

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