Magazine article The New Yorker

What's Fair

Magazine article The New Yorker

What's Fair

Article excerpt

HBO has two new documentaries, each dramatizing a miscarriage of justice. In January, the cable channel began airing Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," which was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary. It's the capper to their nearly two-decade-long investigation of the story of three Arkansas teen-agers jailed for a gruesome child murder; the film ends with the trio freed, a result of the directors' advocacy. Valentine's Day brings the premiere of "The Loving Story," about Mildred and Richard Loving, the couple behind the Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia, which overturned state bans on interracial marriage.

Each film will make viewers fume about how easily the legal system can bludgeon those who are vulnerable or simply unlucky. But "The Loving Story" is coolly elegant, a distanced gaze at a painful period, while "Paradise Lost 3" is muddy-pawed with passion, its filmmakers and its subjects having long ago matted into one. To my surprise, I found myself leaning slightly toward the messier, more unresolved film, not despite but because of how it shows its seams.

This is not to fault "The Loving Story," a luminous production from the director Nancy Buirski and the editor Elisabeth Haviland James, who weave freshly discovered black-and-white footage with photographs, news clips, and talking-head interviews. …

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