In the world of true crime documentaries, there can be few names bigger than Joe Berlinger – and the director is back with another new docuseries for Netflix.
This time around, Berlinger is looking at the ways in which different locations can have an impact on crime, with the series focusing on The Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles and specifically what happened to Elisa Lam, a 21-year-old student who was found dead there in 2013.
Due to the mysterious circumstances surrounding Lam’s death – including some bizarre viral footage of her in an elevator the day she disappeared – the case quickly became a topic of discussion for many amateur sleuths on the internet.
Several Elisa Lam theories spread online, some describing the case as a ghost story and others implicating a musician who had also been staying in the hotel, but eventually, Lam’s death was ruled as accidental.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press ahead of the series’ release, Berlinger explained that he hoped the series would right a few wrongs regarding the public perception of the case.
“It was an opportunity to play with the genre and set the record straight on a very famous story that has been told, I think, irresponsibly,” he said. “Because I think it’s very disrespectful to the victim of the tragedy to dismiss it as a ghost story.”
He later added: “I want people to realise that you need a lot more than circumstantial evidence to prove a case. There’s just a lot of strange coincidences but none of that is a replacement for cold hard facts.”
Meanwhile, Berlinger also explained how his approach for the series was different from other true crime documentaries he’s been involved with.
“The approach to do this and see it through the eyes of the Cecil was definitely a creative choice to create a different kind of a series and give myself a little refreshing break,” he said.
“I’ve leaned heavily in the past into individual stories of crime or individual stories of criminals, but never have I looked at how a place is kind of an accomplice to crime or an accomplice to the perception of crime.”