The Video Diary Of Ricardo Lopez

Sami Saif (as Sami Martin Saif).

Netherlands 2000, 1h 10min.

Danish documentary director Sami Saïf has turned this footage into a 68-minute documentary. Deeply unsettling, it poses an important critique off how the media turn human tragedy into short entertaining news items.

Some found it disgusting, others just photogenic. Broadcasters from around the world have shown images of 21-year-old Ricardo Lopez committing suicide with a handgun. The images were part of a video diary that Ricardo Lopez made in the months preceding his suicide. On more than fifteen hours of tape he talks to the camera and among other things explains his obsession with Icelandic pop singer Björk, to whom he mailed an acid bomb. It was this bomb, which never would have worked anyway, that secured his notoriety in the tabloid press. Ricardo Lopez died in 1996 at 21.

Sami Saïf first saw Ricardo Lopez in a news clip on a local Danish television station. He was immediately angered by the way the news reporters were trying to portray Lopez as a homicidal maniac, not as a fellow human being. What Sami Saïf saw was not a freak, but a bewildered and sick young man, trying to sort out his confused thoughts by talking into his video camera. “By making this film I wanted to look beyond the tabloid sensationalism of television news,” explains Sami Saïf, “Television news programmes are never concerned about why people act the way Lopez does. Television news has a de-humanising effect in the way that we never learn the whole story about the persons involved. Instead, people are portrayed in stereotypes, and Lopez was cast in the role of homicidal maniac when his dramatic video recordings travelled the airwaves following his suicide. But even though Ricardo tries to act like a tough dangerous guy, like De Niro’s Taxi Driver, I immediately sensed that he was really not like this. There is a whole different side to his personality that the news journalists didn’t want to investigate because it didn’t fit in with their version of the story. That just sickened me to the point where I knew I had to make a movie about Lopez, if for no other purpose than to vindicate him as a human being.”

Video claustrophobia

Sami Saïf’s film is deeply unsettling. The movie consists purely of material filmed by Lopez himself. He always video filmed himself alone in his house, often naked and late at night. In these sessions he talks about his relationship to his family, his fascination with Björk, his work as an pest exterminator and his obsession with suicide. He even shows in great detail how he experiments with acid in order to make a bomb that will scar Björks face. His life is miserable; he is lonely, overweight and tortures himself with needles. In effect the viewers are invited into the living room of a severely disturbed person who is gradually losing his sense of self and reality.

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