Documentary filmmakers usually document closed chapters. They research, sort, analyze and condense everything into a story, the end of which is already fixed at the beginning. Unless the chapter is not closed, but is still being written while filming and concerns the documentary filmmaker personally; then the documentation resembles a report, or better still: a long-term study. Like “Britney vs. Spears” by Erin Lee Carr.
The award-winning journalist was ten when her life revolved around the late nineties megastar. She was 18 when, despite his global popularity, he was incapacitated by his own father. And she was 28 when this guardianship case seemed too arbitrary to leave uncommented. Erin Lee Carr and her colleague Jenny Eliscu made a Netflix documentary about the judicial scandal, which is also remarkable because, only days after it was first broadcast, it overtook itself, so to speak.
A simmering cold case
Unlike Samantha Stark, whose Sky portrait “Framing Britney Spears” described the entire life of the trapped pop queen in early 2021, Carr and Eliscu focus on the time after 2007, when the then 25-year-olds lived as a result of a dirty divorce went out of joint. Constantly in the picture, we watch the filmmakers as they root their way from the victim’s friend to the perpetrator’s lawyer with the help of various important contemporary witnesses. How they advance across mountains of visual and written evidence into the deep valley of a profit-driven plot. And how they anticipate what became reality only hours after the premiere.
Because on Wednesday a US court lifted Jamie Spears’ 13-year guardianship over his daughter, adding another chapter to the thriller from the Boulevard of Vanities. That alone makes this simmering cold case in the style of a presenter report worth seeing. And madly entertaining.