DIRECTED BY Nick Broomfield
STARRING Aileen Wuornos, Nick Broomfield
Opens November 21, Cert 15, 89 mins
After the relative frivolity of Kurt And Courtney and Biggie And Tupac, documentary maker Nick Broomfield revisits the territory of his 1992 film about Aileen Wuornos, a lesbian hitchhiker prostitute convicted for the murder of six semi-truck drivers. Ten years on, Wuornos is due to be executed, and Broomfield is among a number of witnesses recalled to Florida, subpoenaed for a final court hearing.
In the first film, a sympathetic Broomfield found Wuornos to be a hapless victim not just of her upbringing but also of a hopeless, dope-smoking defence attorney and a police force riddled with opportunists who conspired to sell the movie rights to Wuornos’ life story. Wuornos had passionately screeched her innocence and Broomfield, looking at the track record of sexual offences of her first victim, was inclined to agree with her claims that in this instance, at least, she murdered in self-defence.
In 2002, however, Wuornos seems determined to be executed?with Florida’s oily governor, Jeb Bush, offering no objections?and in interviews with Broomfield retracts her original claims of innocence, supposedly to square things with her Maker. It soon emerges that, years on, Death Row has robbed Wuornos of her marbles?in her contradictory, paranoid rants she charges the police with letting her get away with her murders so as to up her value as a serial killer when selling the rights to her story. Aileen?Life And Death Of A Serial Killer is one of Broomfield’s more sober outings and it carries an explicit anti-death penalty message endorsed by Amnesty International. But, Broomfield being Broomfield, his hand-held camera and disingenuously bumbling interview approach don’t do his subject any favours, exposing her as a sad grotesque, diminishing sympathy for her terrible plight and unbelievably abusive upbringing. So spectacularly far gone is she by the end that you almost feel her life isn’t worth preserving. There also hovers the awkward question of whether Broomfield himself is guilty of exploiting Wuornos for his own cinematic ends. But his tireless legwork in search of the raw truth pays off?this is human nature in extremis up close, messy and ignoble: Broomfield’s grim forte.