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USA | 2017 | 84 min. | Color | 1.78:1 | Stereo | Dir. John R. Hand
"Joel" is a true crime film based on the story of New York's most notorious serial killer Joel Rifkin, who murdered at least seventeen prostitutes in the late eighties and early nineties.
The product of over three years worth of intensive research, "Joel" is one of the most accurate and in-depth cinematic renderings of the life and crimes of a serial killer ever made.
It took me years of searching to discover Joel Rifkin's story. It took a few more years of false starts, rewrites and total rethinks before I could reduce Rifkin’s story to the essential elements and finally create the completed film.. The story of Joel Rifkin is often neglected - there’s no extravagant details of ritualized crime scenes, no sordid tales of a warped childhood. Rifkin had a normal upbringing until various obsessions and emotional forces led him to the murder a string of sex workers in the New York area.
There were many elements of Rifkin’s life story I could relate to, such as his early abuse at the hands of his school classmates, his early adult floundering at finding a job, and his inability to live up to his father’s expectations. His surface normality forces us to confront his humanity and makes his crimes even more horrifying.
Most films made from the stories of real-life killers take only the basic details of the actual events and then invent their own fictional stories and characters. The filmmakers frequently invent a specific character, usually a law enforcement figure, who can guide us like children through the world of our killer as a kind of rational window into the world of madness. With Joel, I wanted to strip that away and tell the story directly from the viewpoint of Joel Rifkin with as much authentic detail as possible. I wanted to use his own words taken directly from interviews to weave a fractured portrait of the man, his crimes, and his victims.
John R. Hand