Alex Gibney is arguably the most skilled and incisive documentary maker around, with a raft of Emmys and Academy Award nominations for films that include Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015), Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God (2013), Enron (2005), Taxi to the Dark Side (2007), and most recently, Citizen K. When his production company Jigsaw backs a story, we’d better take notice. Directed by Erin Lee Carr (Mommy Dead and Dearest, 2017), the four-part series How to fix a Drug Scandal is the latest from Gibney as producer.
If you’re into true crime, CSI or socio-political drama, Drug Scandal ticks all the boxes. From the first scenes, we are in effect told the ending: drug lab chemist Sonja Farak was an addict who falsified thousands of tests in order to get her hands on narcotics. The gripping storytelling comes from exploring how this could have happened and for so long without being detected, and the incredible unravelling consequences that reveal deep flaws in the testing and law enforcement institutions of Amherst, Massachusetts.
The biggest fallout comes with having to reopen case upon case where Farak had falsified evidence to cover her drug felony tracks, leading to the astonishing picture of thousands (estimated 24,000 to be exact) of wrongful convictions.
Every aspect, every piece of the puzzle and consequence is revealed and examined in meticulous detail. It’s fascinating and delivers with an edgy true crime style that mixes data, interviews from an array of expert witnesses and emotional tapes of Farak’s own evidence. Her main drug of choice was crack.
“I was smoking at the lab. I was smoking at home. I actually smoked in the evidence room,” says Farak in the documentary.
Her arrest came in 2013 after she had been stealing and using for most of her 9 years employment, only clumsily hiding the evidence in plain sight at her place of work. How could something so criminally careless happen and be handled so badly by all concerned? Watch the series to find out.