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  • Busra Yildirim, reporter

"Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel" Review

True crime stories are broadcast in podcasts, video commentaries, and documentaries. They have garnered a lot of attention because of the petrifying situations that have affected people in real life. To some people, true crime stories are a form of adrenaline and for others, it serves an educational purpose. Either way, it is important to realize that these heinous crimes occur towards actual people and should take into consideration the victim’s family and friends. These documentaries should also be consumed to gain more insight into human psychology and to raise awareness of issues in the justice system.

“Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” was created by popular true-crime executive director Joe Berlinger. He also directed the Netflix docu-series “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes'' and the drama film “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile.” His films and docu-series mainly focus on social justice issues in the US and abroad.

Belinger's main purpose in filming the newly released series about the Cecil Hotel is to make people aware of the web sleuths' role in putting together information and finding out what happened to Elisa Lam. He also wanted to bring attention to the problems at Skid Row, which is where the Cecil Hotel is located.

Elisa Lam was a 21-year-old student who attended the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia. She wanted to have some change in her life so she decided to go on a solo journey around California. She constantly published on her Tumblr about her upcoming trip and her then-current emotional state. She filled her posts with excitement and personal insights she was gaining throughout her trip.

Lam was staying at one of the most atrocious and immoral parts of Los Angeles. She was vulnerable to the murders and crimes that took place in the city. On Jan. 13 2013, Lam disappeared and soon the world would be acquainted with her mysterious disappearance.

The series consists of four episodes: “Lost in Los Angeles”, “Secrets of the Cecil”, “Down the Rabbit Hole”, and “The Hard Truth.” The first episode introduces Elisa Lam and her excursion to America from Canada. The next two episodes focus on the web sleuth’s peculiar obsession with the case. Finally, the last episode concludes what happened to Lam.

The director develops the episodes through interviews with the police, web sleuths, suspects, and Cecil hotel workers. However, the documentary misses the integral people that would complete the documentary: Lam’s family and friends. In order to develop an emotional connection to Lam, the series includes her Tumblr posts.

Many critics believe that “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” does not bring justice to Elisa Lam’s case because of the disordered organization of the series. Many also believe that the documentary focuses on unimportant details and focuses too much on the web sleuth’s findings.

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