Oscar-winning director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade (Murder on a Sunday Morning) is making a follow-up to his acclaimed 2004 doc series The Staircase for French net Canal+, realscreen can reveal, with the project already attracting interest in Cannes from international broadcasters including the BBC and VPRO.
The news comes after explosive developments recently saw the convicted subject of The Staircase, Michael Peterson, released from jail after serving eight years of a life sentence, pending a retrial.
Canal+ is aiming to air the as-yet-untitled follow-up as a 120-minute special in October, according to the project’s distributor Cat & Docs, which is also offering the sequel in a 2 x 60-minute version.
Talking to realscreen in Cannes, Cat & Docs founder and president Catherine Le Clef said de Lestrade had already completed most of the filming for the project, which will feature interviews with Peterson, his lawyer, and other key players from the original trial.
“He needs to go and shoot a bit more, but the film will be broadcast on Canal+ in October,” said Le Clef. “He’s trying to make it in such a way that if you haven’t seen The Staircase series, you will still understand what’s going on.”
De Lestrade’s original 8 x 45-minutes series, which in some territories aired under the alternative titles Soupçons (Suspicions) and Death on the Staircase, aired to great praise eight years ago on networks around the world, including BBC ‘Storyville’ in the UK, Sundance Channel in the U.S., and CBC in Canada.
The twist-filled series focused on the trial of author Peterson, who was accused of killing his wife Kathleen after her body was discovered lying in a pool of blood on the stairway of their home.
Peterson was found guilty; however, following a hearing in December last year, a Superior Court Judge ruled that a State Bureau of Investigation analyst whose testimony had been pivotal in the original “Staircase Murder” trial had misled its jurors about the strength of bloodstain evidence, according to reports.
The analyst in question was fired last year after an internal investigation found he had misreported test results, withheld results, or overstated the strength of evidence to the benefit of prosecutors in more than 30 cases.
De Lestrade was onhand to film the December hearing – at which footage from The Staircase was shown – and the verdict, as well as Peterson’s subsequent release from prison. The author is currently out of jail under house arrest, pending a retrial.
The documentary sequel is already drawing heat at MIPTV in Cannes, with buyers from VPRO in Holland and BBC ‘Storyville’ in the UK both telling realscreen that they are very likely to buy it, and possibly re-license the original series as well.
Nick Fraser, editor of BBC ‘Storyville,’ said de Lestrade was “a genius,” adding that he thought him to be “one of the best French documentary filmmakers working today.”
For a good overview on the circumstances surrounding Peterson’s December release from jail, check out ABC News’s report below.