Joe Berlinger is one of the leading storytellers of his generation, drawing attention to social justice issues in the U.S. and abroad and creating landmark films such as: Brother's Keeper, a DGA Award-winner that broke new ground with its narrative storytelling techniques; HBO’s Paradise Lost trilogy with resulted in the freeing of the wrongly-convicted West Memphis Three after almost two decades in prison; and Some Kind of Monster, an intimate portrait of Metallica that redefined the rockumentary genre, one of seven Berlinger films to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. 

In addition to his feature work, Berlinger has created or played pivotal roles as executive producer, director &/or producer of many acclaimed and award-winning television series. Berlinger’s passion for using media to bring attention to the issue of wrongful conviction served as the inspiration for Wrong Man for Starz, which took an in-depth look into six separate cases of alleged wrongful conviction over two seasons. 

In 2019, Berlinger broke new ground for himself by covering the same subject in scripted and unscripted forms simultaneously with Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes and Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and Vile, which starred Zac Efron as Bundy.  Both aired on Netflix and attracted enormous audiences around the world, with Conversations becoming the network’s highest-rated nonfiction title last year, and Extremely Wicked landing in the top ten of most-streamed titles in any genre for 2019. Berlinger continued his work for Netflix with the docuseries Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, a victim-focused look at the sordid life of one of the world’s most vile serial pedophiles. The series reached the #1 spot on the network’s chart of most-streamed shows or movies across all genres in May of 2020.

Berlinger’s body of social justice films expanded with Starz’s Confronting a Serial Killer, following author Jillian Lauren as she aids law enforcement in solving cold case murders targeting marginalized communities, particularly women of color, through her unprecedented relationship with the most prolific serial killer in American history, Sam Little. Crime Scenewhich examined the dark history of Los Angeles’ notorious Cecil Hotel and the surrounding Skid Row neighborhood through the lens of the mysterious disappearance of Canadian tourist Elisa Lam, brought Berlinger’s streak of chart-topping Netflix docuseries into 2021, becoming his third straight to debut at #1 in the US, accomplishing the same feat in Canada and the UK, and garnering similar attention throughout South America, Europe, and Asia.

I’m described as a true-crime pioneer”, he acknowledged. “I liked the pioneer part. The true-crime thing makes me a little nervous because I think of myself more as a social justice filmmaker spending a lot of time in the crime space.” 

He added: “I do think there’s a lot of irresponsible true crime being done where there’s no larger social justice message or there’s not a larger commentary on society. It’s just about wallowing in the misery of somebody else’s tragedy without any larger purpose.

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