Alex Gibney is setting his sights on serial killers in “Crazy, Not Insane,” the latest documentary from the high-profile filmmaker.
Per HBO, the documentary profiles Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a veteran psychiatrist who has studied various infamous murderers. Her research includes videotaped death row interviews and examines the formative experiences and neurological dysfunction of such infamous murderers as Arthur Shawcross and Ted Bundy. Her work challenges the very notion of evil, proposing that murderers are made, not born.
The film also explores the death penalty itself, highlighting research that indicates states with the death penalty tend to have higher murder rates than those without, questioning the theory of the death penalty as a deterrent to violence. The film asks an important question: Once dangerous killers are locked away and the public is protected, why is society so determined to execute these human beings?
“Crazy, Not Insane,” which was recently showcased at DOC NYC, was originally scheduled to premiere at SXSW 2020. HBO set its new release date for November 18.
The documentary marks a stylistic departure for Gibney, who uses an eclectic mix of cinema verité, videotapes of psychiatric evaluations, hand-drawn animation, and home movies in order to explore the complexities of the human mind. Lewis’ literary voice is read by Laura Dern (“The Tale”) to bring further insight into Lewis’ career and her cases through her writings. From images of Dr. Lewis scribbling on legal pads in her unruly living room to studio art classes she takes in life-drawing, Gibney’s portrait of Lewis intends to show a woman of limitless curiosity willing to explore places others are unwilling to go.
“Crazy, Not Insane” is one of several high-profile documentaries that Gibney has worked on recently. Gibney made waves in early October when HBO premiered his “Totally Under Control” documentary, which examined the United States government’s ongoing failures to mitigate the damage from the coronavirus pandemic. “Totally Under Control” was well-received by critics, including IndieWire’s Eric Kohn, who described it as “a perfect endpoint for a story with no end in sight” in his grade B review.
This year, Gibney also directed “Agents of Chaos” (another HBO doc about Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election) and an episode of “The Innocence Files,” a feature-length episode of the Netflix docuseries. He served as an executive producer on the Emmy-nominated EPIX docuseries “Laurel Canyon” and documentary “Kingdom of Silence,” both of which aired in 2020.
Check out the trailer for “Crazy, Not Insane” below: