“They can’t believe the boy who showed so much promise now faces a murder rap.” So opened the fourth Tuesday night screening in Pure Nonfiction at IFC Center’s 2019 Winter Season, The Case Against Adnan Syed. The series screened the first episode of the highly anticipated HBO four-part miniseries, which focuses on the murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore in 1999, one of the most famous cases in recent history, popularized by the podcast Serial.
The first episode of the series reconstructs the world that surrounds Adnan and Hae, using powerful interviews with family and friends, stunning graphics, and ingenious use of existing archival materials. Their early relationship is discussed, with friend Debbie Warren remarking “They both had my ear on liking the other one.” Hae goes missing, but when she is discovered murdered, shock envelops the entire community. Aisha Pittman says “I don’t think it hit me that anything could be wrong until her brother told me they had found the body.” Laura Estrada Sandoval continues, “When they arrested him, they gotta have the wrong guy.” Adnan himself even opines “You don’t have time to come to terms with anything, you just gotta survive.”
The focus on Adnan continued into the Q&A following the episode with Adnan’s longtime advocate Rabia Chaudry saying, “My hopes were that it would help bring him home… we’ve given this case everything we can.” Director Amy Berg initially expressed hesitation about digging into Adnan’s story. “I walked into this cautiously… we had some serious conversations before I signed on about ‘What if we find out that Adnan did it? What if we find anything that is different from the current narrative?’ She now believes his innocence, and Laura Estrada Sandoval affirmed the same position, stating “It was so shocking, because you’ve never seen anyone mad, and then they’re gonna get charged with murder? It’s surreal.”
The Cast Against Adnan Syed debuts Sunday, March 10th at 9 PM on HBO and will continue for three subsequent Sunday airings. More information is available at https://www.hbo.com/the-case-against-adnan-syed.