Documentary / TV Series
Is It Worth Watching? Yes (with a box of tissues).
Pistorius is a four-part documentary series on Amazon Prime which looks into the crime and conviction of the famous Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius. It focuses on the heavily televised seven-month trial following the murder of the sprinter’s girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentine’s Day, 2013.
This documentary was a very hard watch. I had followed Pistorius’s trial in 2014 with little interest, having made up my mind that he was guilty and that his claim of mistaking Steenkamp for an intruder was utter rubbish. I had not been alone in that assumption. Many of my friends believed the same. But now, I would urge them to watch this documentary. It may not necessarily change their minds, but it does put a lot of things into perspective. It did for me.
The most important aspect of the documentary was how it highlighted the trial against the economical and social conditions in post-apartheid South Africa. The way this trial was used by certain groups of people to further their agenda, mainly the ANC Women’s League. Pistorius’s trial came at a time when the black population of South Africa were feeling disenchanted with the government because the freedom that they had been promised after the abolition of apartheid did not really come, at least not in any financial or material way. Around the same time, awareness was being raised regarding violence against women which is a serious problem in South Africa. So the trend was already against Oscar Pistorius: a white male accused of murdering his girlfriend. Another surprising fact for me was that in South Africa there is no jury system and the decision is made by the judge alone.
There is no dramatisation of events. The documentary uses all real footage, which isn’t a biggie when the entire trial was live broadcast. In fact, a whole channel was dedicated to the trial with discussions with experts, like Thronecast. There are also interviews with Pistorius’s family, Steenkamp’s family, the judge, the first police officer at the crime scene, journalists and commentators. Both the prosecution’s theory of premeditated murder and defence’s case of manslaughter have been shown in a balanced and non-prejudicial format. While you get to hear a forensic expert’s opinion on the mishandling of the crime scene by the police, you also get the investigation officer’s side of the story. Similarly, there are some who vouch for Pistorius’s good character, whereas others highlight his unpredictability and portray him as trigger-happy.
The documentary has gone all out and shows every photo from the crime scene, including ones of Steenkamp’s dead body. These are disturbing images, and I found it very hard to look at them. I’m not exactly sure what the intent was behind showing these photos, except to prove due diligence. The court scenes in which Pistorius is being interrogated are also extremely heartbreaking. This one is not for the faint-hearted.