LIFE OF CRIME: 1984-2020, is the culmination of 36 years of work from multiple Emmy Award-winning producer/director Jon Alpert (HBO’s “Baghdad ER”). The third and final part of an epic documentary trilogy, LIFE OF CRIME: 1984-2020 tells the full story of three friends from Newark, New Jersey whose lives have been defined by and torn apart by their addictions. With unfettered access, LIFE OF CRIME: 1984-2020 bears witness to each of their journeys in and out of prison, rehab and in occasional jobs as they struggle to end the vicious cycles of drug use and to connect with the families they left behind. Authentic to true vérité filmmaking techniques, Alpert’s camera is observational, immersive, deeply intimate and unfiltered; the vast scope of the timeline allows for an extensive window into the tragic toll that addiction can take on substance abusers and their loved ones.
LIFE OF CRIME: 1984-2020 debuts Tuesday, November 30 (9:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT). The film will debut on HBO and be available to stream on HBO Max.
LIFE OF CRIME: 1984-2020 is a longitudinal dive into the underbelly of Newark where crime can be a way of life and drugs are all too available in communities with few resources and little to no social welfare programs, and where prison time is offered up as a solution to addiction. In its graphic depictions of drug use, physical and emotional abuse and death, the film reflects a raw, visceral reality while also revealing the humanity of the complicated individuals at its center, fighting to survive in a broken, heartless system.
LIFE OF CRIME: 1984-2020 is tightly focused on three individuals living in one of the roughest parts of Newark, New Jersey: Rob Steffy, a criminal surviving by shoplifting and robbery. His growing drug habit gets him in trouble with the law and while he manages to find stability with a regular job and he remains clean for several months, the lure of his old haunts and former acquaintances is strong; Deliris Vasquez, one-time girlfriend of Rob’s and the mother of two children, whose heroin addiction leads to prostitution, prison, rehab and eventually a long period of recovery. She finds redemption working to help other users get off the streets, but the Covid pandemic has tragic consequences for her community work and sobriety; Freddie Rodriguez, whose petty crimes and drug use land him in and out of prison. He eventually contracts HIV at the height of the AIDS crisis, and struggles to stay healthy, while trying to be a good father to his children.
Alpert’s history with HBO spans multiple decades with the documentary featuring footage from his earlier films in the trilogy, (HBO’s “One Year in a Life of Crime” , and “Life of Crime 2” ) Alpert’s third film in the series brings closure to the lives of Rob, Deliris and Freddie, having observed their triumphs and failures over a lifetime’s trajectory and impacting the filmmaker himself. Since he began filming in 1984, more Americans have died from substance abuse than in wars, and LIFE OF CRIME: 1984-2020 stands as potent testimony to this heartbreaking statistic.
HBO Documentary Films’ presents LIFE OF CRIME: 1984-2020 directed by Jon Alpert; edited by Patrick McMahon, ACE; field producer and audio Rosalina Ramos; assistant editor and conforming editor Naomi Mizoguchi; music composed by Residente. For HBO: senior producer, Tina Nguyen; executive producers, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.
LIFE OF CRIME is included in a collection of four gripping documentary titles that debut on Tuesdays, beginning November 23. Exploring crime-related stories and the issues surrounding them, the anthology includes:
- BLACK AND MISSING (November 23 & 24), a four-part series following sisters-in-law Derrica Wilson and Natalie Wilson as they strive to locate people of color who are missing by bringing awareness to their cases, which have often been marginalized by law enforcement and traditional media. Directed by Geeta Gandbhir, Samantha Knowles, Nadia Hallgren and Yoruba Richen.
- THE SLOW HUSTLE (December 7), a searing look at corruption within the Baltimore Police Department, through the prism of a veteran officer’s mysterious death, as local journalists, family and the community strive to find the truth. Directed by Sonja Sohn.
- THE MURDERS AT STARVED ROCK (December 14 and 15), a three-part documentary series exploring the 1960 brutal murders of three women in Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County, Illinois, and the decades of questions and doubts that have haunted the son of the prosecutor in the case, as the man found guilty seeks to clear his name after sixty years in prison. Directed by Jody McVeigh-Schultz.