Nick Broomfield makes documentaries that seek the truth and report it without fear or favor to anyone. There is no better
example of what he does, and why it makes for such compelling cinema, than TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER, which takes on the reasons why a 25-year killing spree by the eponymous serial killer was allowed to happen in Los Angeles’ South Central neighborhood. When Broomfield, a lanky white guy with a British accent takes to the streets of South Central, talking to its citizens in order uncover why it took a quarter-century for the LAPP to solve the mystery, or even acknowledge that a serial killer was out there, he discovers a systemic problem that Broomfield compares to Apartheid.
Soft-spoken, disarmingly witty, but sharply on point about the problems he found that could allow so many women to just disappear with no official response, he dissects the problems that have been perpetuated with a multigenerational culture of corruption, oppression and neglect.
When we spoke on February 20, 2014, I wanted to start with Pam Brooks, the South Central resident who provided Broomfield his entrée into that society, all but took over his production, and is an example of how government has failed the citizens of that troubled place, and how that failure is a loss for all of us. We moved on to the startling incompetence and lack of compassion of the LAPD, how Broomfield prepared for his time on the streets, what it’s like to talk to someone who has just called him peckerwood, and why a stand-up comedian named Tiffany Haddish provided the key he needed.
TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER is his documentary about of serial murders, the definition of human, and the way justice is parceled out in the United States. Broomfield takes to the streets of South Central Los Angeles to investigate the lack of investigation of the Grim Sleeper murders that began in 1985, took a suspected 100 lives, and ended with the arrest of Lonnie Franklin in 2010 as a result of a fluke, not police work. Broomfield reveals police indifference, community mistrust, and the way Franklin’s friends and acquaintances suspected something wasn’t quite right about him, but took no action. With an immediacy that speaks volumes about the day-to-day reality of people left behind by the economy, the documentary examines issues of race and class in a country that likes to describe itself as classless, and all men are created equal. Broomfield is an award-winning documentarian whose many incisive films include Kurt & Courtney (1998), Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer(2003) and SARAH PALIN: YOU BETCHA (2011).