There have always been documentaries about injustice and real life murder cases, but with the success if Serial, and more recently Making a Murderer, they’re currently extremely popular. Since the use of DNA evidence has become widespread there’s been a flurry or retrials and overturning of convictions. It’s pretty clear that the US justice system left a lot to be desired for many years. What makes The Fear of 13 fairly unique is that we hear the story told from the main protagonist.
After 23 years on Death Row Nick Yarris, a convicted murderer, petitions to be executed. This unusual step, following years of appeals and attempted appeals, peaked the interest of film-maker David Sington. In The Fear of 13 Yarris tells his own story in his own words. Despite a limited education, in solitary confinement he became a self-taught lover of reading. It started a remarkable journey for a man who had been in prison since the age of fifthteen.
Yarris is extremely eloquent and mesmerising narrator. It was a brilliant and brave decision by Sington to allow his monologue to continue unbroken with only contextual images to embellish it. It feels more like a fictional tale at times, it’s gripping, and the manner in which Yarris conducts himself throughout is admirable. The Fear of 13 is certainly a different kind of documentary but it’s one which captivates and surprises.
The Fear of 13 is released on DVD by Dogwoof on Monday.