Even I, the first person to fall asleep in documentaries, found myself glued to the screen during Murder on a Sunday Morning.
It won the Oscar for best documentary for a reason. It is that good. The story of a seemingly overdone subject, the investigation and drawn out trial of a murder, is in fact much more than that in this film.
The documentary shows the unbelievable actions of people in the justice system, supposedly reliable figures. The documentary tells the story of a murder of an elderly white tourist at a hotel in Florida and the investigation following it. The victim’s husband, an eyewitness, gave the police a description of the murderer, and upon hearing that the suspect was black, they picked up the first black male they found.
That person just happened to be a young, black teen who was on his way to fill out a job application. When the teen was brought before the eyewitness, the husband immediately confirmed that this was the man who had shot his wife.
Following this point, the documentary delves into the corruption in Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. There is no evidence besides the testimony of the eyewitness that places this boy at the scene of the crime. Not just that, there seems to be evidence to prove the contrary.
The documentary takes real footage and expertly melds it into an interesting narrative, keeping the audience engaged and interested throughout the entire film.
The documentary’s presentation is in such a right and wrong manner, with clearly established “good guys” and “bad guys,” something that is entirely refreshing in this day and age. It gives the viewer something to really believe in.
With the murder having taken place just a few years ago in 2000, the message the film presents has that much more impact. That something this undeniably racist occurred so recently in the United States of America, and that the justice system not only allowed it but also caused it is horrifying.
I left this movie feeling two entirely different things. The first was horror that such an event had occurred. I expected such things from movies, stories of fiction, but not from a documentary, a film based entirely on fact. The second was appreciation for such a well-constructed film.
Part of the movie’s success can definitely be accredited to its subject matter and the immediate shock and therefore attention it draws. But the movie itself backed up the subject matter very well.
There was a good mix between heartfelt moments and sickening moments. For example, a clip when the accused teens parents visit him in jail is gut-wrenching and anyone who is not moved by it must be heartless. Yet, there are also scenes showcasing the complete corruption of the justice system. These serve to further back up the former characters inherent goodness by throwing into contrast the prejudice of the figures of authority that put the teen in jail.
This film is a must see for documentary lovers and documentary haters alike. It has the potential to shock all of its viewers, and will prove to be engaging from start to finish.