One of the films screened at Full Frame Festival in Durham, North Carolina was A Murder in Mansfield, directed by Barbara Kopple. Our very own AU professor, Gary Griffin, was the cinematographer for the film.
The documentary follows Collier Boyle, now Collier Landry, as he returns to his hometown in Mansfield, Ohio after being away for twenty-six years. He takes us on the journey of his past, from his father’s affair to the murder of his mother and everything in-between. Collier is seeking answers, ultimately leading him to visit his father in prison to ask him the burning question that has stayed with him for almost three decades; why did you murder my mommy?
Kopple incorporates Collier’s testimony given during his father’s trial throughout the film. I personally thought it was a very creative way to integrate the facts of the case and family’s history into the film. We learn about his father’s affair, the relationship between him and his dad, and also the events leading up to the night of his mother’s murder from his testimony. He was eleven at the time of the murder and twelve during the trial, which made his testimony more impactful to the audience and a smart choice on Kopple’s part.
We continue the journey with Collier as he revisits his old house where the murder took place and he explains what it was like the night his father brutally murdered his mother. The rest of the film is the backstory of Collier’s life after the murder, which is leading up to Collier meeting his father. He brings us to his therapist’s sessions where we learn about how both sides of his family abandoned him during the trial and how he was forced into foster care.
The entire film surrounds the question of “why”? Collier visits his father in prison to ask him and his father denies everything, he simply explains that it was an accident. We are left with wondering what happened that night in the Boyle household twenty-six years ago, and I don’t think anyone will ever really know the answer to that question.