BOSTON (CBS) – While the federal racketeering trial of James “Whitey” Bulger dragged on last summer, there was an ever-present film crew hovering around the Moakley courthouse in South Boston. They were working on a documentary of the mobster’s life, using the trial as a springboard to tell his story.
A year later, that documentary is complete. It’s called “WHITEY: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA V. JAMES J. BULGER” and it had its local premiere in Cambridge Friday night.
The latest in a long and ever-growing series of for-profit Bulger-based books and films, “WHITEY” runs afoul of at least one family member of Bulger’s alleged victims.
“When I was sold this story in the beginning, it was all about victims and the families,” says Steve Davis. His sister Debbie is one of Bulger’s alleged victims – the only one for whom last summer’s jury returned a “no finding” verdict, meaning they did not find Bulger criminally responsible for her killing.
Even though he willingly participated in the documentary and participated in numerous interviews for it, Davis says it’s “tiring” to watch strangers make money from the families of Bulger’s victims.
“Do we deserve something?” Davis asks. “I don’t know. Yes and no. But I don’t think anybody, or everybody around this, who’s writing about it and profiting off it, earning through it, glamorizing it, should be going to the bank.”
Tommy Donahue, whose father Michael was an innocent bystander killed in the crossfire of a Bulger-ordered hit, is more pragmatic.
Donahue says it “absolutely” bothers him to watch people make money by talking about his dad’s murder, but, he adds, “There’s nothing I can do about it. We’d look like an idiot if we were to protest. If everybody sued on every movie where somebody was killed, nobody would ever make movies. So, it is what it is.”
The film’s director, Joe Berlinger, says his ultimate goal was to educate people, especially about the far-reaching corruption in law enforcement uncovered because of the Bulger case.
However, Berlinger says he “can understand how victim’s family members could be upset that books are being written, films are being made, including my film, that’s a legitimate criticism.”
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