Undercurrent: The Disappearance of Kim Wall director Erin Lee Carr has a unique appreciation for journalists.
The daughter of late, great New York Times columnist David Carr, she knew she was the perfect person to direct HBO’s new two-part true-crime documentary about Denmark’s famous “submarine case,” which details the brutal 2017 murder of 30-year-old Swedish journalist Kim Wall at the hands of Danish inventor Peter Madsen.
“At the time, my plate was completely full and I wasn’t accepting any more directing gigs, but then I just said, ‘Oh my God, I have to take on this story,” Carr told MovieMaker. “I have journalism in my blood.”
Kim Wall was writing a story about Madsen for Wired when she agreed to take a ride in Madsen’s privately built submarine the, UC3 Nautilus. Madsen returned from the voyage the next day, but Wall never did. Her dismembered body was later discovered on the shore and in the waters not far from where the submarine took its last voyage. Madsen is currently serving a life sentence in Denmark for Kim Wall’s murder.
“I wanted to spend years of my life on a woman who was a journalist and was doing incredible work, and who was killed because a man thought he could. I did feel like I needed to tell it for so many reasons, and also that my work really centers around misogyny and violence and the criminal justice space,” Carr said.
The director also felt inclined to tell Kim Wall’s story because she herself knows the feeling of being uncomfortable with an interview subject, yet not wanting to abandon the story.
“I think that Kim felt like — she went to his workshop and said to people that he seemed a little frantic, but it didn’t set off big alarm bells — or she didn’t say that it set off big alarm bells,” Carr said, “But for me, understanding that when you go to a workshop like that and you’re trying to get an interview because you want to end up working in a place like Wired, you’re not really allowed to listen to those alarm bells because you have to push past them. You have to talk to somebody. You think of the statistics. ‘Well, it’s unlikely that he’ll actually hurt me.’ So in a way, journalists are unable – specifically women journalists – are unable to listen to their gut based on what their job actually is.”
“The messaging that I have gotten throughout my life as a filmmaker, director, a journalist, is ‘get the story, get the story, be like the boys,” Carr added.
“I had a very uncomfortable experience with my first character, Gil Valle,“ she said, referring to her first documentary, 2015’s Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop, and the documentary’s main subject, former New York police officer Gilberto Valle, who was convicted in a plot to kidnap, torture, kill and eat a woman.
“He would say and do things when other people left the room, and I just still had to keep working on it because I needed the story. I mean, it was my first movie. I had to ignore it,” Carr added. “But I will say that I didn’t make a film about a man again until now — and I don’t think this film is about Peter. I think it’s about Kim.”
Undercurrent premieres March 8 on HBO.
Main Image: A still from Undercurrent, courtesy of HBO.