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UK, 1992 (MIFF 1993, Documentaries)

Director: Nick Broomfield

Between 1990 and 1991, Aileen Carol Wuornos, a 35-year-old prostitute, killed seven men. The FBI termed her "America's first female serial killer".

British documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield unites his interest in social outsiders and oversized personalities — as seen in his other works, Soldier Girls, Monster in a Box and Driving Me Crazy, all seen at previous MIFF's — in this quizzical look at the horror-show hype that has surrounded Wuornos. The film is not a sensationalised recapitulation of crime but an investigation of a different order. Broomfield's quest for truth, in the quagmire of fast-buck fascination, becomes his central motif, as he charts her personal history to reveal an infinitely more complex portrait, a defendant who is culpable and a victim.

Weeks before incarceration — and unbeknownst to her — Wuornos had already spawned a macabre cottage industry that included book and movie deals (with amazing disclosures that police officers reportedly began discussions with Hollywood one month before her arrest!). The director encounters incredible characters who have attached themselves to her like Arlene Pralle, a born-again Christian who adopted Wuornos in '91 and Steven Glazer the self promoting, guitar strumming, singing public defendant, who is her lawyer.

Broomfield also is very much a player in the tale he seeks to tell - the apparant irony at the heart of this documentary is that he, like all the others, is there with a camera and a microphone, filming an individual who feeds our most prurient, voyeuristic desires - yet, like The Thin Blue Line, the story of Aileen Wuornos powerfully transcends its limits because, as its core, a life hangs in the balance unfairly skewed.

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