Sky's new documentary series delves into the murder case that gripped the world
It airs this week. Don't miss it
While the very first official documentary or non-fiction narrative film can be traced back to 1922, it's fair to argue that the recent upsurge in the documentary genre can be traced back to three things.
1) Making A Murderer igniting the genre as 'water cooler' TV - basically, everyone that you knew was talking about it. Aside from this, the fact that it was made for Netflix meant that binge-watching was now the way to go for the genre.
2) The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst - HBO's superb documentary series redefined the genre because 'that' revelation at the end redefined the boundaries between subject and 'entertainment'
3) The incredible success of the podcast Serial because in many ways, it defined what a podcast was and how popular could be.
On this note, two of the above are combining because Sky/HBO's new documentary The Case Against Adnan Syed will air on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV from 1 April.
As stated previously, the four-part series will reexamine the case twenty years after the mysterious death of Baltimore high school student Hae Min Lee.
While Serial fans might adopt an attitude of 'what's left to learn?', the documentary is clever because it acknowledges the ground-breaking success of the podcast before exploring its own narrative. In fact, Serial led to new evidence being uncovered and a fresh appeal for Adnan Syed.
Without giving too much away, what makes The Case Against Adnan Syed stand out from the rest of the crowd is the fact that it takes the time to introduce viewers to the personalities of Adnan Syed, Hae Min Lee, and those that love them.
In fact, we get to know Adnan and Hae as individuals before they're even a couple as young love, cultural differences, and teenage hormones influence their relationship.
Hae Min Lee's strangled, partially buried body was found four weeks after she went missing on 13 January 1999 in Baltimore. Syed, who she had dated for several months in the year before her death, was convicted of first-degree murder in February 2000.
In terms of its narrative approach, Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg gives the series a level of intimacy that's missing from other series by giving viewers an insight into Hae's own journal.
In production since 2015, The Case Against Adnan Syed closely re-examines the events leading up to Hae Min Lee’s disappearance, from high school romance, forbidden love and cultural conflict, to the aftermath of her disappearance, the original police investigation and the present day, when Syed awaits a new trial.
Presenting new discoveries as well as groundbreaking revelations that challenge the state’s case, and featuring exclusive access to Syed, the defence team, the Syed family, friends and teachers of both students, and members of City of Baltimore law enforcement, the series traces how the rush to justice and Syed’s conviction in 2000 raised more questions than answers about what happened to Hae Min Lee, underscoring the instability of memory and conflicting eyewitnesses.
Since being released, the documentary series has made a very good impression with critics.
The Guardian remarked that "in refusing to shy away from the less savoury aspects of our cultural obsession with true crime, Berg deliberately uses the camera's lens as a way to illuminate the humanity of everyone who was affected by the murder, including Hae herself".
While the LA Times said that "it painstakingly scrutinises the evidence, timelines and testimony surrounding the murder of the Baltimore County high school senior".
The Case Against Adnan Syed is available to watch on Sky Atlantic from 21:00 and it will also be released on Now TV.
Clip via HBO