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“The Confession Tapes” Screening and Reception at United Talent

Director Kelly Loudenberg discussing “The Confession Tapes” “8th and H” episode at United Talent (Photo: THT)

By Audrey Rock

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 9/22/17 – Wednesday night, after Kelly Loudenberg screened an episode of her stunning Netflix docu-series “The Confession Tapes,” she stood in a reception room at United Talent Agency, still in a state of utter, clear-eyed disbelief at the injustice of it all.

“When is a confession not a confession?” the series asks.  False confessions are often coerced or involuntary.  The “8th and H” episode asks new questions about the brutal assault and murder of Catherine Fuller in 1984.   17 young men were caught up in this case, and ultimately charged with her murder.

The riveting series argues, however, that they offered false confessions; coerced by the heavily armed government in an unfair case that was finally killed off in June, when the U.S. Supreme Court denied relief to 7 of the Washington, D.C. convicts in a 6-2 ruling.  33 years later, there were still those attempting to get justice; still those attempting to document that journey.  “Which just tells me that we have a long way to go,” Loudenberg told her visibly stunned audience after the screening ended. “I hope that the show educates the public about this, and maybe there will be some positive outcome, here.”

Sebastian Burns and Atif Rafay

It’s obvious that it may be difficult for Loudenberg herself to see that “positive outcome” herself.  In spite of her team, media, and other well-wishers surrounding her with congratulations for the series’ success–it’s been streaming since September 8th with nearly universal critical approval–she is, as mentioned before, in an almost catatonic state.  Her investment in the 8th and H case is deep and visceral.  She clearly wasn’t just “along for the ride.”

King County, Washington, Judge Charles Mertel who presided over the trial of Burns and Rafay in 2004. [Image by Ted S. Warren/AP Images]
“It really got me down,” she said.  “I know these guys.  I talked to Clifton (Clifton Yarborough), I talked to his parents, and his sister.  It makes me sad; and I feel like something’s wrong, at every level.  With the plea deals, with the confession; there’s just something wrong.”

Clifton’s involvement in the case was critical.  It was his “confession” that may have sealed the fate for every one of the members of the 8th and H crew, and their families, for decades to come.  Justice for Catherine Fuller’s true murderer–and the true, complete story–may never actually be brought to light.

Netflix ‘Confession Tapes’: Are Sebastian Burns And Atif Rafay Innocent?

It can’t be said, however, that the arrestingly talented Loudenberg (along with her travelling all-female crew) hasn’t done her part.  The series is intense, and brought to its peak several times within the running time, both it’s glory and it’s defeat is the obfuscation of truth, both by the authorities involved and the central figures.

“I guess the best case is that this will inspire some sympathy, and they will get out on parole,” she said.   “It’s uncomfortable.  I’d kind of conditioned myself to film them getting out of prison, going back to their families.  I had all these ideas of where I would film them, eating out at their favorite restaurants; it would be so positive. I really thought that was going to be the ending.  That just wasn’t it.  It was a 6-2 decision.”

“The Confession Tapes” is currently streaming on Netflix.

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