HBO's new true crime documentary took director Amy Berg 3 and a half years to make. So now that it's finally ready, viewers will want to know when The Case Against Adnan Syed premieres. The series will air in four parts on HBO beginning Mar. 10 at 9 p.m. ET. You can watch the next three parts of the series on Sundays at the same time in the subsequent weeks. The series will also be available to stream on the channel's streaming services HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand according to an HBO press release.
The Case Against Adnan Syed begins at the start of Syed and Hae Min Lee's high school romance, covers the events surrounding her disappearance and then follows the case against Syed from the investigation of Lee's disappearance to present day, when Syed is facing the possibility of a new trial. HBO promises that the film will present new information that was not included in NPR's popular Serial podcast when host Sarah Koenig covered the case. This includes new interviews with people close to the case on both sides and audio recorded interviews Syed gave from prison, HBO's press release said.
Berg said in an interview with Decider that the series essentially picked up the case where Serial podcast left off telling the story of Lee's murder and the subsequent suspicion and later conviction of her ex-boyfriend Syed. The director had more questions than answers when she finished listening to the show, so she was inspired to look into the case herself.
Berg said to Decider, "I was so confused at the end of Serial, as well, about his innocence or guilt, that when I took this job I said to my producers, “If I find out anything, I’m investigating this case. I’m not just investigating the wrongful conviction, I’m investigating this case, and if I find out anything on it I’m telling that story.”
Investigating the case through a documentary allowed filmmakers to bring aspects of the story to life that a podcast never could. For example, Berg animated images of Lee on film to give viewers insight into the person she was like. "I always wanted to bring Hae to life in a different way. The animated scenes came right out of her journal," Berg said in her conversation with Decider. Animations were part of the plan for the documentary from the start, and were created with the help of animator Sara Gunnarsdottir.
Visualization also makes the data about the cell phone towers easier for viewers to understand. When and where cell phone calls were made and if people received them is a very important piece of the case, but it's very technical data. Unless you pause a podcast often to take notes, it's difficult to process that type of information strictly in an auditory format. But a bigger question hangs over that cell phone data: why weren't these records presented during the trial?
Berg was adamant in the interview that the documentary is not about innocence or guilt. It's about examining the holes — like the one described above — that exist in the case against Syed that need to be examined before his innocence or guilt is decided. 20 years after the case began, Syed is possibly getting a new trial — so someone other than Berg also believed these holes were worth looking at.
New information was uncovered as well, but it's so top secret that the fourth and final part of the documentary was not made available to the media before it airs. All Berg said about the fourth installment is that "major stuff" will be revealed. Beyond this new information, there are lessons that can be learned from the film about justice. "...I guess the themes that are the most important to me are prosecutors seeking justice, police officers seeking the truth, putting a face to the families that are affected by this." Berg said. "And remembering that, if Adnan didn’t kill her, there is somebody out there that deserves to be tried and found," she told Decider.
Vulture reported a statement that Syed's advocate and friend Rabia Chaudry (who initially reached out to Koenig for the Serial podcast) made to journalists when the docuseries was announced. “In the era of a Muslim ban, in the era of the highest anti-Muslim sentiment in this country ever, this is a story that has resonated across the hearts of this country and the world,” Chaudry said.
She continued, saying she thinks the film will help build on the progress Serial generated for the case. “And people don’t care that he’s a young American Muslim guy. His religion all of a sudden didn’t matter so much. Serial was able to do that. This documentary is going to put a face to those people and it’s going to do it even further.”
True crime documentaries are more than just entertaining. In recent years, they have sparked progress in some trials, even by just bringing more attention to potential flaws in our justice system. Before you take a side in this case, watch The Case Against Adnan Syed on Mar. 10 to learn more about Lee, Syed and the families affected by her disappearance.