The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Review: ‘Incendiary: the Willingham Case’

The whole premise for “Incendiary: the Willingham Case” started when Joe Bailey Jr., a law student at the time, took Steven Mims’s Production Two class at the University of Texas at Austin.

Mims had just read a 30-page article in “The New Yorker” about the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texas man who under questionable evidence had been convicted and eventually executed for the arson and murder of his three children in December of 1991. During the trial, the prosecutors relied on faulty evidence based on the Corsicana

Fire Department’s arson investigation unit to convict Willingham of the murder.

Curious as to how and why Willingham was convicted and executed under such weak evidence, Bailey Jr. and Mims set out to make a comprehensive and thrilling documentary that investigated Cameron’s case, and from there, “Incendiary: the Willingham Case,” was born.

The documentary starts in the most modest way possible, simply explaining the science behind how a fire consumes a house as quickly as Willingham’s did on the day his three children died. By doing this, the movie not only engages its audiences with an interesting subject, but also provides them with crucial information needed to understand the rest of the 99-minute feature documentary.

The remainder of “Incendiary” is a slow burn of interviews and segments that chronicles the aftermath of Willingham’s execution and the shady politics that soon followed. Bailey Jr. and Mims craft their story with precision and carefulness, strategically intertwining interviews with information segments that keep the story moving at a rather quick pace.

To say that the two directors were thorough would be an understatement. The Austin filmmakers tackle the story with a complete and udder objectivity that both sides of the Willingham case are represented in good manner. Perhaps the most interesting of the director’s interviews comes from Willingham’s own defense attorney who is so unsettled and almost vile that every scene he is featured in gives you goosebumps.

“Incendiary: the Willingham Case” is a gripping real-crime documentary that grabs your attention from the moment it starts and never lets go. The movie uses its objective stance to present a story that shows just how corrupt politics can be.

“Incendiary” uses science as a vehicle to move along its complex plot, an attribute that separates it from most crime documentaries today. Even though the documentary has trouble ending (mainly due to the fact that the event is still going on), “Incendiary: the Willingham Case” is still a landmark achievement for a movie that started as a conversation between a teacher and a student.

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