not a book, tv

Not a Book: Ghislaine Maxwell documentaries

**** Content warning: child sex abuse ****

So with the sentencing of Ghislaine Maxwell due to happen this week, today’s post is a round up of some recent documentaries and related content. Obviously the content around the court case is incredibly grim and distressing, so all the warnings.

I’m going to start with House of Maxwell, which is a three part documentary on the BBC – which you can find on iPlayer. This looks at the Maxwell family – from the rise of newspaper baron Robert, through his mysterious death, the financial scandal that emerged after his death and subsequent legal action through to Ghislaine’s reappearance in New York and everything that followed. If you don’t know about Robert Maxwell and the Mirror group pensions, this is a really good place to start. I was only little when he went missing from his yacht, and didn’t really know much about the detail or the court cases that followed, so it filled in a lot of background for me. This is more a look at the Maxwell family than at Ghislaine specifically.

Epsteins’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell is the opposite. It does cover some of the same ground with the family history, but mostly focused on how that impacted on the young Ghislaine and moves on (relatively) quickly to the New York Years and is much more about Maxwell and Epstein’s relationships and what the allegations are against her. This another three parter or at least it was in the UK where it was shown on Sky Documentaries, but I think in the US on Peacock it may have been shown as one three hour doc. This was first broadcast in 2021, and when I saw it earlier this month it had two sets of closing statements – one explaining all the people who had been asked to comment or be interviewed and their responses and the fact that the trial was happening and a second about the verdicts. No doubt the ending will be getting an update this week. Definitely the grimmer of the two – as you would probably expect.

There have also been several podcasts on or around the subject – I’ve listened to some but not all of Power: The Maxwells from Puck, which has a simialr focus to House of Maxwell – in that it’s looking at the family not just Ghislaine. I also have the Maxwell season of British Scandal from Wondery cues up ready to listen to – just as soon as I have time!

I have started but haven’t finished – yet – the 2020 Netflix Jeffrey Epstein documentary, Jeffrey Epstein: Flithy Rich. It’s the grimmest of the lot – we only made it forty minutes into the first episode before it all got too much, so I’ll have to do it in chunks when I’m in a resilient mood and go in prepared. What I’ve seen of it is (obviously) a harrowing watch very much focussed on his victims and their experiences in their own words.

If you just want to read articles – which feel less harrowing (to me at least) that watching or listening, then there is plenty to chose from – although a lot of the big investigative pieces are behind paywalls or partial paywalls – so in the main I’m linking you to indexes here so you can see what there is and pick your stories yourself rather that use up your free articles on my links. Vanity Fair has done a lot – you can see their topic indexes on Ghislaine Maxwell here and Jeffery Epstein here, but as they also did a big profile piece on Epstein in 2003 which there are various conflicting accounts about as this New Yorker article explains. The New Yorker also has topic indexes for both Maxwell and Epstein. New York Magazine also has topic indexes for Maxwell and Epstein. No paywall for The Guardian – again there’s an index for Maxwell and Epstein.

not a book

Not a Book: I am Jackie O

We’re still on a bit of a documentary jag in our house – and there’s been quite a good run on Sky Documentaries recently – I just need to remember to check through their listings and set the TiVo to record. I Am Jackie O was one we stumbled across a few weeks back – and I’ve been saving this to post until after the JFK-adjacent Recommendsday post.

If you don’t want to read a biography of Jackie O or don’t know that much about her, this will do that for you. And you’ve read any/some/many of the books I mentioned in the Recommendsday post, it has archive footage of all of the key moments that you’ve read about, plus home movie footage as well as talking heads and archive soundbites of the key figures at the time. A lot of Kennedy related documentaries are either wildly sychophantic or deep into the gossip (that’s if they’re not swimming in conspiracy theories) but this manages to dodge that a strikes a nice balance between examining the facts and looking at motivations. It’s not groundbreaking or revelatory, but it is a fairly even handed look at Jackie’s life. There’s obviously a fair bit of death – and images of those deaths – but I think you expect that when you’re going into a documentary about the wife of an assassinated president – whose family have had a lot of tragedy around them.

It’s not necessarily a doc to go out and buy – but if you’re interested in the subject, stick a bookmark on it on your platforms of choice to record it when it comes around again. It’s still fairly new, so you can rent it on various platforms at the moment, but I don’t think it’s outside the realms of possibility that it will be free on one of the streaming platforms at some point in the future.

book adjacent, Recommendsday

#Recommendsday: Book-adjacent stuff to watch

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been having some problems concentrating on books at various points during the Current Situation, so I’ve been watching a lot of TV in those concentration lapses. As I watch news all day every day at work, I don’t watch news on my off days, and tend to favour non-news TV. I thought today I’d mention some of the bookish things that I have watched, along with all the Drag Race, Tiger King, My Lottery Dream Home and Great British Menu.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

A couple of years back I read Judith Mackerell’s The Unfinished Palazzo, about a house in Venice that was owned by Luisa Casati, Doris Castelrosse and Peggy Guggenheim. When I wrote about the book in my Rich People Problems nonfiction post last year, I said I would happily read more about any of them, which is true, but Peggy is the one I ws really curious about. So imagine my delight when I found a feature length documentary about her on BBC Four the other week.  And it turns out, she’s just as interesting as I thought she would be – and possibly as much of a nightmare to be around as I suspected too.  I am still definitely in the market for a good book about her – but this was a very good watch.  Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict is available to watch for people in the UK (with a TV licence) on the BBC iPlayer for another nine days.

Becoming Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama’s memoir was huuuuuge when it came out – huge to the point were a year on it’s still not out in paperback and there’s still a hold queue for it at my library. Now Netflix has a new documentary that follows her on the tour she did to promote the book, which saw her talking to huge arenas and small groups. If you haven’t read the book (and I haven’t yet) it is a really good insight into her life and her story. I assume if you have read the book, it does the same but even more so! It’s got bonus appearances from Barack Obama, and for the news junkies like me you get to see behind the scenes of some of the TV interviews you may have seen her (and her mum) do at the time of the booklaunch. This one’s on Netflix now.

Wise Children

There’s a lot of theatre that has been on YouTube or TV during the lockdown, but this has been one of the most interesting to me. This is an adaptation of Angela Carters book about two ageing music hall stars, the unacknowledged daughters of the most famous Shakespearian actor of the day. I read the book two years ago, and while it is very good it didn’t really strike me as a show that would be easily adapted for the stage – despite the fact that it is about the theatre. But Emma Rice has done it and now we can all watch. I haven’t got to the end of this yet, but I’m really enjoying as much of it as I have watched. Wise Children is available to watch for people in the UK (with a TV licence) on BBC iPlayer until at least the start of June.

Howl’s Moving Castle

I read the book the other year, but I saw the film first and it has a special place in my heart because of that. All of the Studio Ghibli stuff is available on Netflix now, so if you haven’t seen them already, now is your chance. I’m planning on watching it again – but this time with subtitles instead of the English language dub.

Voila – a few ideas from me. Please put any suggestions you have for me in the comments – I will run out of Drag race soon…

Happy Watching!