Family Members of Bulger Victims Upset They Weren’t Invited to Documentary Premiere

The director has vowed to host a second showing for them—somehow.

Photo via Associated Press

Photo via Associated Press

Family members of victims murdered at the hands of Whitey Bulger are upset that they weren’t extended a special invitation to the premiere of a new documentary that centers around the South Boston crime leader’s summer trial, which is set to hit the screen in Brookline this month.

But the director of the film, Joe Berlinger, has vowed to find a way to hold a special second screening for those whose lives were ruined by Bulger, so they can see it too.

“We will figure out how to try to do another screening to accommodate all of the families. I am confident that this will not be the only screening in Boston and we will figure out how to get the other family members in there,” Berlinger said about the film, titled Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger. “I share their frustration and ask for their patience. Making sure all of the families see the film is very important to me.”

Ellen Connors, whose father, Edward Connors, was gunned down by Bulger and his sidekick Steve Flemmi in 1975, was one of the first people to call out the director for not asking victims’ family members to the premiere in Brookline on January 30.

“It just adds to the angst of what the families have gone through this summer,” said Connors. “It’s very disappointing. There are other victims’ family members that would have liked to attend the showing.”

Connors’ father’s murder was a major focal point of the Bulger trial that ended in August after recordings of Bulger describing the shooting to his nephew, while making machine gun sounds, were played back to the courtroom.

Bulger said in the recordings that someone threw his name “into the mix,” and he wasn’t the shooter. Despite Bulger’s plea of innocence in that particular crime, a jury found him guilty of gunning down Connors’ dad, and she feels that since her life was so connected to Bulger’s reign of terror over South Boston as well as the drawn-out trial—the subject of the documentary—she should have been welcomed to the event before the general public.

Tickets to see the documentary at Coolidge Corner have been sold out for weeks, however.

She said another resident whose  father was killed in connection with Bulger associates, but was not proven in court, was also angry about the situation. “I can’t repeat what he said, because I don’t think you will be able to print it,” Connors joked.

Connors said she reached out to the theater to explain her situation, but said they weren’t accommodating to her request to pay for a seat since there are none left. “I explained who I was and was willing to furnish proof so they don’t think I’m some crazy nut out on the street.”

The theater manager told her to show up an hour before the show to see if she could buy a ticket from someone else.

Connors said she also searched for Berlinger’s email address online. Because his email can only be accessed through a paid subscription on IMDB’s website, her search ended there.

“I haven’t had any luck,” she said. “I would absolutely love the opportunity to see this documentary in my own backyard with other area Boston residents and victims’ family members.”

When Boston reached out to Berlinger to ask why Connors and other people whose loved ones were killed by Bulger weren’t the first to get an invite, he promised to make sure that they wouldn’t be left out completely.

“I am very upset about that not everyone can be accommodated, but it caught all of us by surprise…tickets—which we have no control over—sold out in less than an hour, which is far from typical for a documentary,” he said in an email Thursday. “We were only given a small allotment to give to those who are actually in the film, but since the film is dedicated to all of the families of the victims, we all are very disappointed that they all can’t attend this screening.”

In an earlier interview discussing the documentary, Berlinger said one of his biggest regrets about the film, which took six months to complete, was that he didn’t have time to focus on every murder that Bulger was found guilty of committing. “I hope that family of victims don’t think we prioritized one story over another, or have taken sides with some family members over others,” said Berlinger.

While it doesn’t quite make up for missing the premiere, Connors appreciated the sentiment and acknowledgement.

“It does help, [if] he is genuine and sincere in his apology. It’s hard, because this thing touched so many lives. It would be difficult to squeeze it all into the movie,” she said.