Magazine article Screen International

'Fantastic Lies': SXSW Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Fantastic Lies': SXSW Review

Article excerpt

Dir: Marina Zenovich. US. 2016. 102mins

Detailing a high-profile rape case in which the rush to judgment significantly outpaced the calm gathering of facts, the smoothly riveting Fantastic Lies lays out the sexual assault scandal that ensnared and smeared the Duke University men's lacrosse team in 2006, triggering nationwide scorn even though the players were ultimately exonerated.

Produced by ESPN Films, whose 30 For 30 sports documentaries have been a sturdy franchise for the cable network, director Marina Zenovich's overview has the same slick efficiency and polished production values that viewers have come to expect from the series. Rarely revelatory but compulsively watchable, Fantastic Lies nicely rehashes the thorny racial and class issues that the case brought to light - and which continue to fester.

After its premiere at South By Southwest, Fantastic Lies will air on ESPN on March 13, exactly 10 years to the day of the infamous incident that began the legal firestorm against the lacrosse team. Stateside interest should be significant, especially for sports fans who either love or hate Duke University's track record for athletic excellence.

As the film begins, we're taken back to 2006 when Duke's lacrosse team, on the cusp of a new season in which they hoped to win a national championship, were hit by accusations that they had sexually assaulted a stripper hired for an off-campus party. Because the team members were white and attending one of America's most prestigious schools, and the stripper, Crystal Mangum, was an African-American single mother attending a far-less impressive college, the case quickly attracted national attention, igniting a firestorm of criticism from different advocacy groups.

Zenovich, who has directed two films about Roman Polanski's sex scandal, follows the template established by recent popular true-crime series Serial and Making A Murderer, incorporating talking-head interviews from those who were involved with the case to provide intimate commentary on the proceedings. Even for those familiar with the story, Fantastic Lies is gripping, as Zenovich re-creates the enraged national consensus at the time that these entitled, arrogant athletes were hiding behind their privilege after doing horrifying things to a poor young black woman. …

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