On a day that’s meant to celebrate love and romance, true crime network Investigation Discovery is taking a look at a love story gone wrong.
The two-part special He Lied About Everything, which premieres tonight (Feb. 14) at 8 p.m. ET/PT, spotlights the relationship between investigative news producer Benita Alexander and world-renowned surgeon Paolo Macchiarini (pictured, right).
While the pair’s relationship began as picture perfect, it devolved into a nightmare filled with deceit and destruction as lies surrounding Macchiarini’s business and personal life begin to surface.
Realscreen caught up with Alexander (pictured, left), the executive producer and subject of the special, to talk about the project ahead of its release.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What was the genesis for this documentary?
My life was railroaded by a man who lied to an astounding degree. But this man was also a medical pioneer, dubbed the “super surgeon” — a man who worked at the place that awards the Nobel Prize in medicine. He was vouched for and vetted by some of the world’s top doctors, scientists and institutions. This was someone who was not only trusted by me, but also by prestigious medical and scientific communities and by patients who put their lives in his hands.
So, when I unraveled the devastating lies he told me, I became horrified by the thought that he was very likely also lying to, and potentially harming, his patients. I felt that it was my personal responsibility to let the world know who he really is and the tools I had at my disposal to do that were my story and my abilities as a filmmaker.
Why do you think there is an appetite for this type of story?
The experience of being betrayed or lied to is unfortunately something most people find relatable. Unfortunately, in this case, for that to have happened to such a degree that people’s lives were actually in danger is particularly scary.
I think people find some comfort in seeing that they’re not alone in being duped or lied to in some way, and maybe it is helpful to see someone standing up and trying to do something about it.
What challenges did you face with production?
By far the most difficult challenge was the fact that I was making a film that tells the story of my own life. It is a story that was still extremely raw for me and it was still unfolding during the course of our filming.
There were also logistical challenges. In Russia, for example, we faced production challenges that none of us had ever dealt with before. We couldn’t travel into the country with our own gear, so were totally dependent on what we could find there, and we had a very ambitious schedule that involved crisscrossing the country on a tight deadline to go to four different cities in less than a week. We were literally running from plane to train to taxi on a constant basis. We were also handicapped by the language barrier and rules we didn’t understand about things like weight restrictions for gear.
What’s more, we were working in a climate where the general default seemed to be not to trust any foreign journalists. Our crew was questioned and threatened with arrest more than once. As soon as we were able to convey that we were working with approved Russian crews, everything was always fine, but it was nerve wracking.
What did you learn during the production of this project that you think would be valuable to other professionals in the industry?
We tried to allow scenes to breathe, allowing the audience to really experience them with me. I didn’t hold anything back, even when it started to feel uncomfortable to keep the camera rolling. We rarely used any lights, shooting everything in natural light without overthinking any of it.
What’s your favorite moment from the doc?
One of them is actually one of the most painful for me — I’m sobbing, stomping my feet and trying to catch my breath in the car after finding out that my fiancé had another family living in the house where I was supposed to be moving. I had handed my friend my cell phone because I was crying so hard and I had no idea it was still recording. It’s still tough for me to watch now, hearing the agony in my screams, but it perfectly captures the painfully raw reality of the scene.
He Lied About Everything premieres tonight (Feb. 14) at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Investigation Discovery