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Pamela Smart takes the stand in her own defense, in the 1991 trial in which she was accused of conspiracy to kill her husband, in a scene from the documentary "Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart." Courtesy HBO Documentary Films
Sundance review: ‘Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart’

"Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart"

U.S. Documentary

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*** 1/2 (three and a half stars)

The fascination over Pamela Smart, the New Hampshire school employee convicted of conspiring to kill her husband Gregory in 1990, has not abated in 24 years -- and Jeremiah Zagar’s eye-opening documentary (airing later this year on HBO) points out the reasons why. Zagar interviews principals in the case, including Smart herself, to question the case prosecutors made against her. Beyond that, though, he explores the way the media, first through gavel-to-gavel coverage of the case and later in fictionalized versions (including a 1991 TV movie starring Helen Hunt and Joyce Maynard’s novel "To Die For" and Gus Van Sant’s adaptation starring Nicole Kidman), to confuse what people think they know about Gregory Smart’s murder. Zagar’s piercing meta-analysis serves to make us question everything we hear in the media, including Zagar’s own movie.

-- Sean P. Means

"Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart" screens again at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival: Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Library Theatre; Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at the Redstone Cinema 7, Park City; Monday at 3 p.m. at the Sundance Screening Room, Sundance resort; Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. at the Prospector Square Theatre, Park City; and Friday at 6 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre in Park City.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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