Hot Docs 2014: Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart

Captivated In 1990, 21 year old Pamela Smart was arrested for plotting the murder of her husband, which was committed by three teens – one of whom Smart had an affair with.  The case became a media sensation, with Smart’s trial being the first to be covered live on television.  The case also became inspiration for the novel To Die For by Joyce Maynard, which was later adapted into the 1995 Gus Van Sant film, starring Nicole Kidman.  Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart examines the media circus around the case and how it likely influenced public opinion of Pamela Smart. In theory, the criminal justice system is based around the presumption of innocence, until proven guilty in the court of law.  However, that does not make a very good news story.  What does make a compelling story is one of an icy black widow, who seduces an impressionable teenager to commit a murder for her.  It’s practically a plot right out of a film noir.  While Pamela Smart was far from an innocent person, at the very least she was guilty of having a relationship with a minor, the film makes it quite apparent that the media painted a picture of her, which likely influenced the result of her trial. Captivated breaks down Pamela Smart’s trial, using the help of a private audio log by “Juror #13,” who was one of only three jurors to believe that Pamela Smart was not guilty.  To keep with film’s theme of the media circus around the case, the film places TVs playing the trial in a number of different locations, including the opening shot of the TV on a stage. Overall, Captivated was indeed a very captivating examination of the media influence on this famous case. 8 | LIKED IT Screenings:

  • Sun, April 27, 11:00 AM – TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
  • Sun, May 4, 11:00 AM – Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).