It has been one of the most talked about and intriguing criminal stories of all times.
Notorious Boston gangster and organized crime figure James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger Jr. for years got away with murders and other crimes and as some believed because he was an informant for the FBI, he was never caught. It wasn’t until in 2013 that Bulger was finally found guilty on 31 counts, including 11 murders and is now serving two consecutive life terms plus five-year prison sentence for his crimes. He is 84.
Like most of America, I was fascinated by the story and all the countless films and books that have been written about the famous Boston gangster. The New York Times article in 2013 “Whitey Bulger: The Capture of a Legend” outlining the famous mobster’s life, manhunt and downfall peaked my interest even more in the dramatic life and times of Bulger.
And the fascination with Bulger is still going strong today. Hollywood actor Johnny Depp is currently shooting in Boston portraying the role of Bulger in the movie Black Mass being directed by Scott Cooper and scheduled to be released sometime in 2015. And of course who can forget the 2006 film, The Departed with Matt Damon. An amazing film inspired by Bulger’s notorious life in South Boston.
But the new gripping documentary directed by the acclaimed and Academy nominated director Joe Berlinger that everyone is talking about is based on the trial and conviction of Bulger and is called Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger. Berlinger has been a strong leading voice in nonfiction films for over two decades. The documentary is produced by CNN Films and Radical Media. You are not going to want to miss this films folks! Trust me.
The film focuses on the trial and outcome of Whitey Bulger and the hidden corruption of the law enforcement in Boston. Mr. Berlinger interviews people from both legal teams and Berlinger scores a major coup when Bulger calls into his lawyer’s office on speaker phone for the viewers to hear his side of the story.
Berlinger’s other highly acclaimed films Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and Metallica: Some kind of Monster were simply fantastic. His film CRUDE about oil pollution, won over 22 human rights, environmental and film festival awards. I became a huge fan of the acclaimed director after I saw Paradise Lost: Purgatory for which Berlinger received an Oscar nomination.
Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger recently opened in LA and is available on In Demand. The film premiered at Sundance this year to an exclusive sold out audience and has since grabbed the attention of everyone and anyone who has been following this incredible dramatic true-to-life story.
The Ravi Report recently caught up with the famous documentarian at the NY premiere where Berlinger celebrated the release of his film with friends and family.
RR: It’s a pleasure to finally meet you Joe. You really did an excellent job with the film. If I may ask, what did you find the most interesting or surprising about Bulger’s dramatic life while making the film?
JB: The degree to which the conventional wisdom of the story might or might not be true. It’s taken as gospel that Whitey Bulger was or was not an informant for the FBI and a lot of the bad behavior that went wrong is solely the fault of John Connolly (convicted former FBI agent) who is currently in prison. My investigation demonstrated lots of holes in the conventional wisdom. The fact that Bulger was sentenced to two life sentences at the age of 83 after benefiting from a life of crime and that life of crime was abetted by the FBI and the Dept. of Justice, led to a lot of unanswered questions for me and that was the biggest surprise.
RR: So much already has been written about Bulger in books and his life has even inspired a few Hollywood films. But your film has been getting such strong attention and praise from people and critics all over the world despite so much out there already on the famous gangster’s life. Your thoughts?
JB: I am proud of the film. There was a desire to exhibit this film at Sundance this year because that is the premiere place to debut a film. I’ve had 5 other films premiere at Sundance already so this was my 6th. I started shooting the film last June (2013)and finished it up this January(2014) in time for the festival.I am proud of the film and you can never look back…what’s done is done.
RR: Thank you Joe. It’s been a privilege indeed.
JB: Thank you
Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger is available on In Demand and is currently screening in major cities across the United States.
The journey continues and for the Academy nominated Berlinger, it’s been an interesting ride so far.