Life With MurderOut of the dozens of docs I've screened for Hot Docs 2010, few boast a nail-biting narrative that can match 'Life With Murder.'

The Jenkins family has had a tough go. In 1997, 20-year-old Jennifer was gunned down in her Chatham, Ontario home. While many clues pointed to her brother Mason as the killer, parents Brian and Leslie weren't sure what to think and stood by their son's proclaimed innocence; this process took them through 11 years of court battles and appeals, and eventually to their son's conviction of first degree murder. Life With MurderOut of the dozens of docs I've screened for Hot Docs 2010, few boast a nail-biting narrative that can match 'Life With Murder.'

The Jenkins family has had a tough go. In 1997, 20-year-old Jennifer was gunned down in her Chatham, Ontario home. While many clues pointed to her brother Mason as the killer, parents Brian and Leslie weren't sure what to think and stood by their son's proclaimed innocence; this process took them through 11 years of court battles and appeals, and eventually to their son's conviction of first degree murder.

In a Canadian town that sees only a couple of murders a year, if any, the burden of such a grave situation takes on an even more disturbing heaviness. Extensive interviews with Brian and Leslie, investigator George Vieira, extended family and most notably, Mason Jenkins himself, take us on the difficult journey.

The idea of watching a family deal with a murdered daughter seems about as much fun as watching Precious suffer abuse – a bit of a 'eat your veggies' of a movie – but it's worth the effort. Like so many great films, it's character, storytelling and the uncertain emotional outcome that hook the viewer into the documentary within the first few minutes. Multiple Emmy Award-winning director John Kastner skillfully takes us through the evidence, at the same time highlighting this group's need to keep some semblance of family, with fascinating results. We join Kastner as information is revealed to him. As the twists and turns of Mason's story bubble to the surface, the audience is moved from past to present, in a drama that is seductive to witness.

While the jury is likely out on how ethical it was to pull the police interrogation tapes of all three Jenkins family members just hours after the murder, the raw and grizzly emotion that is dragged out in front of the audience is breathtaking. Shot from the ceiling, the bird's eye view of the tapes reveal Mason wailing and telling a story about how he wasn't in the house during the shooting, and another shows us the terrible breakdown of a father who has just found his murdered daughter in his own home.




While 'Life With Murder' may not answer any of life's most elusive questions, it does have something to say about family. Mason and his parents are a testament to the security we find with our oldest relationships, regardless of how mangled they may become through our actions.

'Life With Murder' screens on Saturday, May 1 at 9:45 pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre and screens again on Sunday, May 9 at 3:45 pm at the Bloor Cinema.

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