10 Levels Of Irony In The Pamela Smart Documentary “Captivated”

Everyone is on trial in Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart, which airs Aug. 18 on HBO.

1. Pamela Smart, who was found guilty of plotting the murder of her husband, received a harsher sentence than the teenagers who admitted to actually murdering him.

HBO

The court convicted her of conspiracy to commit murder, being an accomplice to murder, and witness tampering. She is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole that the teenagers who admitted to murdering Gregg Smart all received in their sentencing. Smart had been having an affair with one of the boys — he was 15 at the time. “It’s a trope,” the documentary’s director Jeremiah Zagar told BuzzFeed. “She fits into that trope. She is that Lady Macbeth, she is that Eve to that Adam.”

2. Before he started the documentary, the director had heard of the 1995 Nicole Kidman movie To Die For, but he didn’t know that it was actually based on Pamela Smart’s life.

Columbia Pictures / Via blogs.indiewire.com

It was directed by Gus Van Sant and co-starred Matt Dillon, Joaquin Phoenix, and Casey Affleck, among many others.

3. There is a moment in Captivated when the novelist who wrote the book version of To Die For confuses Pamela Smart with her main character, the sociopathic Suzanne Maretto.

HBO

She is not the only person in the film who confuses the real Pamela Smart with a fictionalized version of Pamela Smart.

4. There is a moment in the film where the cop who arrested Smart reports what he said to her upon her arrest. Then he repeats it, because he wants to say it with a little more emotion.

HBO

Zagar didn’t notice the cop acting out his cop role until he watched it in the editing room. And he said that indeed, “That’s what I wanted from him — a little more emotion.” It was a perfect illustration: “Everybody gets caught up in the retelling of the story.”

5. Someone in the film says that the trial was intriguing because Smart did not shy away from media attention. He says this while not shying away from media attention.

HBO

It seemed like she enjoyed the attention, he says in the movie.

6. Zagar made the movie artificial-looking to remind viewers that he’s just a cog in the “storytelling apparatus,” too.

HBO

“The style should express the artifice,” he said.

7. But also, he wanted people to feel as though they were watching the footage on television in the early ’90s.

HBO

“The audience can relate to [the images] on a level of nostalgia.”

8. Despite the fact that Zagar believes Pamela Smart was found guilty because of a compelling narrative supported by images in the media, he worried that his new story about her would not be a compelling narrative.

HBO

“My reservations about making the film were mostly about whether it would be an interesting film or not,” he said. “This story has been told a billion times.”

9. Zagar knows he can’t prove whether Pamela Smart is innocent or guilty.

HBO

“Ultimately, it’s about an intimate moment between a young woman and a young man, and we weren’t present at that moment,” Zagar said. But, he believes he can show that “there was a trial that seemed incredibly unfair, and incredibly influenced by the media.”

10. Zagar is talking to members of the media who are going to make a narrative about the narrative he’s made about the narrative of Pamela Smart.

Matthew Keefe, Flickr: mkeefe / Via creativecommons.org

“Why am I talking to you?” he said, joking but also not joking.

Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart airs Aug. 18 at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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