It’s time to take stock of Ghislaine Maxwell in the documentary series “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein”


When Jeffrey Epstein was at the height of his power and seemed untouchable, he and his network of facilitators, including Ghislaine Maxwell, allegedly trafficked five or six girls. One day.“Surviving Jeffrey Epstein,” Lifetime’s new four-hour documentary, shows how much of an open secret it was in his social circle, a sphere of influence that has expanded to include some of the wealthiest people and most people. most recognizable in the world.

Enough knew enough about his predatory habits that on his 40th birthday, when British journalist Christopher Mason recited a custom-written composition at the behest of his former friend Maxwell, a revealing moment was etched in his memory.

“He taught mathematics to Dalton: The villain blushes / To think about schoolgirls and all their favorites,” he had read aloud in front of a room full of people, some of whom were laughing.

“It seemed like it was something that was known to him at the time, that he liked young girls,” Mason says in the documentary, after admitting that in the context of what the world now knows of Epstein, his little debauchery ditty reads a lot scarier. “It’s that weird thing of something that seems ironic, but you have no idea how utterly depraved his intentions were. ”

“Surviving Jeffrey Epstein,” as the title suggests, follows in the footsteps of the previous Lifetime documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” by providing a safe and supportive forum for the eight women who agreed to step in front of the camera and tell their stories. sexual exploitation. by Epstein and Maxwell, including Virginia Giuffre, perhaps the most important accuser associated with this case.

Filmmakers Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern edited these four hours in such a way that we focus on the lives and bravery of these survivors, capturing their determination and refusing to distract from the moments when the lasting pain of what they went through. and continue to live with the surfaces again.

“From our perspective, the women themselves and their stories are so specific and so clear, and have caused them so much trauma,” Stern told Salon in a recent phone conversation. “It’s not an easy thing for them to come forward and share these stories. They certainly don’t do it for fame or fortune. They are doing it because they want to hopefully prevent this from happening to another young person and also hopefully change the laws so that people who have been sexually abused do not face these deadlines. prescription. ”

Epstein was found dead in his Manhattan jail cell on August 10, 2019, and for some it seems that this series comes too late, coinciding with this one-year anniversary. (Netflix has covered similar, albeit more sinister, territory in its “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” docu-series).

But what Sundberg and Stern argue powerfully enough over the course of all four parts of their series is that the only way the world’s most prolific serial sex offender and child molester could have functioned so successfully and trafficking girls all over the world for so long without facing the consequences is that he did not operate alone.

Maxwell was taken into custody on July 2 of this year. And it’s her involvement that forms the main thrust of the fourth episode, which builds this case that even though Epstein’s death denied these women justice, they could get their day in court to confront Maxwell.

“What did [« Surviving R. Kelly] Notable was the series itself helped lead to accusations. It really helped impact criminal justice, ”Stern said. We think in some ways that we now have some traction with this, particularly with the focus on Ghislaine in the fourth episode. And I think with his trial and the ongoing case, everyone will be curious now to see if there will be any additional charges that will be laid against some of the people who were previously protected or unnamed. ”

Each hour carefully guides us through Epstein’s rise to become one of the richest men in the world while carefully refraining from humanizing him. Instead, the documentary takes a close look at the means by which the New York financier has corrupted and successfully bypassed the justice system for most of his life.

Stern and Sundberg also introduce the network of co-conspirators named in a 2008 federal case against him, including Sarah Kellen, Nadia Marcinkova, Lesley Groff and Adriana Ross, none of whom have ever been charged with a crime, and Jean – Luc Brunel, a former model agency scout who has denied any wrongdoing and, like the others, has not been charged with any crime.

Each episode includes several reminders to viewers of each named co-conspirator insisting on their innocence, including a card from Kellen identifying him as a “potential co-conspirator” in a no-prosecution agreement between federal prosecutors and Epstein in 2008. which adds:

Her spokesperson told CBS News that she had been abused “sexually” and “psychologically” by Epstein for years, and “deeply regretted” any part in “the pain and damage caused by Epstein.” She has not been charged with any crime.

But Sundberg and Stern are no spares when it comes to pointing out, through testimonies from survivors and extensive photographic evidence, how many famous and powerful people were close enough to Epstein and Maxwell to have some idea of ​​what was going on. was happening, and yet did absolutely nothing. about that.

A vast array of photographs are woven throughout the series showing Epstein and Maxwell with their arms slung around an array of jaw-dropping public figures. You’ll recognize Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, and Naomi Campbell, as well as plenty of party photos of the couple getting along with Donald Trump.

Giuffre first came forward in 2014 and alleged that she had been trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell for several years and, more shockingly, loaned out to their friends, including Prince Andrew and Alan Dershowitz.

Prince Andrew, to the knowledge of the filmmakers, has not been interviewed by the FBI. In May of this year, he resigned definitively from all his public functions.

However, it was Trump’s connection to Epstein that made the latter a household name in 2019. He was not known in many circles outside of New York and Hollywood, although his earlier agreement gave him helped evade federal charges – and facilitated between 2007 and 2008 by Dershowitz and Trump’s future Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, then U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, made national headlines.

Acosta resigned his post in the administration last year amid growing criticism of his handling of the Epstein deal in 2008 – particularly his deal that the deal would be withheld from Epistein’s victims , which is a violation of federal law.

But those photos of Epstein and Maxwell getting closer to Donald Trump and Melania at various parties over the years have given him a new level of national stardom, and his suspicious death has made him even more famous. Plus, long before this docuseries saw the light of day, Trump’s quote from a 2002 New York Magazine article was re-circulated in the news: “” It’s great fun to be with. him. It is even said that he loves beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are younger. ”

When it became clear that Epstein was not going to come out of his arrest in 2019 and the resulting charges remained stalled, Trump suddenly claimed he was not very close to the man. A few breathless snaps in the fourth episode of documents, some with redacted details, tell a different story.

Sundberg and Stern pointed out in their interview that for most of these people, being seen in photos with Epstein and Maxwell doesn’t mean that regardless of the relationship, each of these public figures had included participation in any kind of abuse. sex or recruitment of young girls. True to this statement, Dershowitz denies, on camera, that he has engaged in sexual activity with minors, as Giuffre accuses him of doing.

Regardless of each person’s actual level of guilt, this visual proof of their relationship with Epstein means, as Sundberg puts it, that everyone “knew, felt or felt” that the whispers about their criminal behavior had to be true. In a subsequent episode, a representative working for one of Gates ‘research foundations raised concerns about the foundation’s acceptance of Epstein’s money, but his protests fell on Gates’ ears. a deaf one.

“They just didn’t think it was up to them to say anything or question his behavior,” Sundberg said. “It’s remarkable whether or not they participated in the abuse. ”

Stern added that the silence reminded them of the Kitty Genovese murder, the famous 1964 case that inspired the social psychological theory known as the “spectator effect.” There’s this sort of group mentality of, “Well, if the president isn’t going to call him, who am I to say something’s going on? Who am I to suggest this? ”

In this way, “Surviving Jeffrey Epstein” becomes a study of the myriad ways in which these women – and the dozens of other victims whose names and faces we do not know – have been rejected by the justice system and the people around. Epstein and Maxwell.

Since Sundberg and Stern are also facing a moving target with this case, it could backfire at any point. The pair were cutting into relevant material just a few days ago. This includes Trump’s July 210 press conference in which he answered the question of how well he knew Maxwell with his dubious response that they were quite familiar and “I wish him well, frankly.”

Any viewer with a conscience will feel the opposite, especially after seeing moments like the fourth episode of Maxwell, glamorous in a flaming tangerine sequin dress, as survivor Rachel Benavidez puts it in a voiceover: “I don’t think it is. ‘she feels remorse for what she has done. I hope she will spend every last day of her life in an orange jumpsuit. ”

“Surviving Jeffrey Epstein” airs for two nights, with its first half starting Sunday, August 9 at 8 p.m. and its conclusion airing Monday, August 10 at 9 p.m. on Lifetime.


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