Adnan Syed HBO Documentary Director Amy Berg Talks About Next Series – The Hollywood Reporter

After director Amy Berg premiered her 2019 docuseries The case against Adnan Syed on HBO, she said “it was really hard for me to give up.”

The four-part series further explored into a story that became famous after it was chronicled Serial podcast several years earlier, about the 2000 case of Baltimore County teenager Adnan Syed in the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. While Serial cast doubt on prosecutors’ initial case against Syed and Berg’s film uncovered further cause for concern, two days before Berg’s series aired, the Maryland Court of Appeals denied it. a new trial of Syed. “It’s like the most unsatisfying ending of any movie I’ve ever made,” Berg said.

Now, Berg has the opportunity to film a new ending for the series. On Tuesday, prosecutors denied charges against Syed in Lee’s 1999 murder, citing results from a DNA test, after a judge vacated Syed’s conviction in September. For the first time in more than two decades, Syed is a freelancer, and Berg is back to film the events. As HBO announced in September, Berg has been filming a sequel to the series since early 2021 with “exclusive access” to Syed; she has tweets pictures from the Baltimore court on the day his sentence was vacated and was also filming on Tuesday, after receiving an early tip on the news.

On Thursday, Berg spoke with The Hollywood Reporter go where The case against Adnan Syed will begin when the new episode comes out in 2023, like filming live with Syed (instead of interviewing him over the phone, as she did in previous episodes) and how Berg reacts to some evidence was discovered in The case against Adnan Syed appear in court.

First of all, how do you react to the news on Tuesday that all charges against Adnan Syed have been dropped and are you filming?

Yes, we have been on the ground since daybreak. We’ve got a tip on this happening so we can document it from the inside, which is incredible. It’s an exciting moment to see that Adnan is finally free, like his arms are off and everything is now, but it’s hard to compare with the highs of three weeks ago, just when saw him walk out of the courtroom.

Where did you film on Tuesday?

I don’t think I can say where we’ve been, but we have very deep access inside and we’re filming the whole thing as it unfolds from multiple angles.

Going back three weeks, you were in court when Syed’s sentence was vacated. What was that moment like and can you film it for the next documentary?

Well, one of the weird and annoying things about the state of Maryland is that they don’t allow cameras in the courtroom, so that was a challenge for us during the duration of this documentary. Because there’s been a lot of hearings and things we’d love to be able to show you in real time. But I’ve actually been working on this sequel quite a bit since the last episode aired. We’ve documented everything up to this point, so we expect it to happen, we don’t know exactly when it will, but we did expect it to happen. We didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. And that’s when [Baltimore City State’s Attorney] Marilyn Mosby decided to apply for leave, within three days he was out, so it’s hard to believe how quickly the system works when convicting the wrong person.

Announcement about the next episode to The case against Adnan Syed say you’ve been filming since 2021. What was around 2021 that made you pick up the camera again?

Well, Adnan has a new attorney, Erica Suter, who was also named head of the Innocence Project in Baltimore at the same time. And she took a very different approach than his previous attorney and just really dug into the case. And also, when the Special Court of Appeals ruled against Adnan getting a new trial after he won two other hearings – the Circuit Court and this Court of Appeals both gave him a new trial. – at that point, his case was dropped. Under [jurisdiction] of the [Maryland Attorney General] Brian Frosh and [former Deputy Attorney General] Thiru Vignarajah at the Attorney General’s office to [Baltimore] City State Attorney’s Office. And that’s where things started to get very interesting for a lot of people wrongly convicted in Baltimore because Marilyn Mosby started looking at a lot of old cases. And she has vindicated 13 men who were wrongly convicted over the past few years. So once he has other views on his case, there will be a new avenue for his case to be heard. And they looked at the case and found there were a lot of problems with it and they started looking at alternate suspects and they filed with Adnan’s attorney a petition to have all the DNA tested, something that has not been done before. So things went in the right direction right away, as soon as Erica started talking to SRU [Sentencing Review Unit]Becky Feldman and the Marilyn Mosby division.

Your original series is based on sources including Syed, his family, his Woodlawn High School classmates, police investigators and others. What can you say about who will be participating in the next episode?

The sequel will probably be more focused on what’s going on right now, so it will obviously be Erica, the new attorney, Marilyn Mosby, the City State Attorney, and then his family. and close associates like Rabia, so it will be much closer.

I’m guessing that Hae Min Lee’s family won’t be participating in this next episode either?

Yes, I don’t think so. Unfortunately they had to go on this trip with Brian Frosh and Thiru Vignarajah. Did you overhear the vacatur hearing?

No I did not.

It happened that day that a hearing was scheduled and there were conversations between the City’s attorney’s office and Hae Min Lee’s family. There is a lot of feedback on the level of notice they are given, and whether they intend to make a statement or not, they have the right to make a statement. So, finally after their attorney was heard, we took a break and then Hae Min Lee’s brother, Young Lee, spoke on Zoom at the hearing. He said something that really struck me: He said that the state had always been on his side and now they are on Adnan’s side. That just tells you so much about the relationship between the state and the Lee family and what they told them. Since the state is supposed to be on the side of justice and if there is a wrongful conviction, or someone is found guilty of killing Hae Min Lee, then justice still needs to be done. So that’s my way of saying that I don’t think we’ll be able to talk to them. Of course, we’ll get back to them, but I think they really feel that Adnan did it based on whatever they’ve been told over the last 23 years. Despite all the new evidence we discovered while I was making the film, which was in fact referenced in the hearing – they cited two pieces of evidence from our film as evidence. for Adnan’s innocence.

What are those two pieces of evidence?

The two main pieces of evidence they talked about was the story of Kristi Vincent being at the house on the night of the 13th even though she didn’t really know what night it was, but the police told her it was the 13th. We were able to investigate. broke her school records and she was in a class that night. And proof that the car could not be parked in the lot during that time [was] based on the interviews we did. And they also reference Jay Wilds’ difference, not just in our movie, but in every interview he’s done, his story has changed a bit. But when we were filming, he told Nikisha, his ex [girlfriend], that he just told the police what they wanted to hear so he could get away with this. So that’s really like the third thing they referenced. So that is quite satisfying for me.

Will you be directly filming Syed for this next episode? Apparently in previous episodes, Syed’s contributions were all over the phone.

Yes, we’ve been filming him quite a bit, and we’re continuing to document Adnan.

How does that change mass or change the experience for you?

That is a great question. Right off the bat, it felt normal but, yes, it was a change to see him come face to face with everyday life and send me funny texts and just talk on the phone whenever. You know, I could call him right now; I never called him before, I had to wait for him to call me. So it’s just really nice. And seeing him with his family, it’s beautiful. His mother, like a new contract of life, her spirit is lifted, and you can see how much the family has lost and how much they have to go through together now in the future. .

As you said, prosecutors have said that two alternate suspects have appeared in their investigation into Hae Min Lee’s death, as well as additional evidence that prosecutors initially did not disclose. disclosed to Syed’s attorney. Will you focus on other potential suspects or additional evidence in your sequel to this series?

Definitely sure. One of those suspects was charged with assault about a year and a half ago, which is another thing that pushed us into the fray, so we’ll follow that story as it unfolds.

What’s next for Syed, to your knowledge?

I think he only took a day at a time. He’s in this Georgetown University program [Georgetown College’s Bachelor of Liberal Arts program for incarcerated students] because he’s been in prison for the past year, I guess about five and a half years, so he’s really doing well with that and he’s just being with his loved ones. I mean, he only has two days to be free. When he was released, he was under house arrest so he just enjoyed a very simple life. I think it’s been a nice transition for him, now he’s had time to adapt. So I’m not sure exactly what we’ll see with him in the coming months and years, but I’d love to see what it is.

Is there anything else you’d like to add about this case or your next episode?

We’re still in its early days, but we’re hoping to have something done by the end of the year. I would say that out of all the movies I’ve made, this one, I loved making it, and I really, really stuck with it throughout the production. But when the Court of Appeal denied Adnan a new trial was like two nights before our drama aired [originally, in 2019], it just feels like the most unsatisfying ending of any movie I’ve ever made. So it’s really hard for me to ignore this movie because it has such a false ending, because we assumed that he would get a new challenge in the two years of drag drama. 4 years long based on what is happening in the legal system. So it’s great to see that we’ll have a proper ending to this show and that Adnan can live his life as a free man.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


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