Fantastic Lies: Movie Review

I’ve never really been a big sports movie person. (Excluding The Blind Side of course,) So when I came across this ESPN documentary and found myself genuinely interested in the topic, I was surprised myself. Following Duke Lacrosse’s infamous rape scandal from 2006, Fantastic Lies unfurled the story from start to finish punctuated with frequent interviews with coaches, attorneys,  players, and their parents.

Summary: In March of 2006, a house party hosted by the Duke University lacrosse team resulted in three of the players receiving allegations from one of the two strippers hired for first-degree sexual offense, kidnapping, and rape. With the alleged circumstances of a black woman as the victim and privileged white men as the abusers, the whole world had no problem in taking the victim’s side from the very beginning, even if it meant ignoring the rights of the accused. However, as the case was pursued, evidence of the player’s innocence was discovered but not taken into consideration. The opposite Attorney Mike Nifong blew it out of proportion, vigorously prosecuting the students even with the evidence against his credibility piling up. In the end, it was discovered that the boys DNA didn’t match that found on the victim and their timing at the house along with cell phone calls made it impossible for all three of them to be in on this crime together. It was an example of  “journalistic malpractice and prosecutorial abuse,”in which we must take into account that “understandable concern about victims has to be balanced against the rights of the accused.” (

A former public editor for The New York Times explained why the Duke Lacrosse case was the perfect media storm.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Why?: By no means was this a bad film, in fact, it was actually pretty thought-provoking. I only gave it a 3.5 because it didn’t compare when it comes to other documentaries that I have watched. Despite the seemingly low rating, this documentary was well-made and tackled an extremely touchy topic in a way that the public could understand. There’s a fine line between an inappropriate party and a sexual crime case and it’s important that the audience sees how these boys weren’t necessarily being innocent in their choice of activities, but they were innocent when it came to a crime they were falsely accused of.  It was shocking to see how quickly our world is to jump to conclusions based off of race, gender and circumstance. It especially surprised me when the team’s own attorney was more inclined towards the opposing side instead of the boy’s just because of circumstance.

But once the media caught on, the kids were in trouble. Even one of the attorneys who defended the players had no trouble believing in their guilt.

Being an amateur lacrosse player myself, this story was especially interesting seeing as it’s surrounding a sport that very recently has taken up a lot of time in my life. It gave me something that allowed me to relate to the people in the situation, and simply caused me to become more interested in the whole affair as a whole. also brought up an interesting point in their review of the program as well, which was it’s parallels to Making a Murderer, the documentary series that’s sweeping the nation:

“Perhaps foremost, it’s hard to ignore the parallels to the Netflix documentary series “Making a Murderer,” at least in terms of how perceptions were largely shaped and fed by an ambitious prosecutor, Mike Nifong, who became so wedded to the idea that the lacrosse players were guilty as to downplay, dismiss and ignore exculpatory evidence. Throw in questionable police behavior; the eventual fate of Crystal Mangum, the troubled woman who leveled the accusations; and Nifong’s eventual disbarment, and the story contains elements of tragedy and hubris that would be difficult to convincingly script.”

Have any of you seen this new ESPN documentary? If so what did you think? I’m hoping to get some more posts written tonight, these past two weeks have been extremely busy and I’m hoping to catch up!




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