Some of us have a some pretty wild dreams. Maybe monsters are chasing us, maybe we fly like superman, or just maybe, we kill someone. What if someone else’s dream affected your life? What if their dream took away your freedom. This is was happened to 19 year old Ryan Ferguson. After a friend has a nightmare about a murder case that happened two years prior, he calls 911 to “confess” and once in custody, puts Ryan at the scene. Director Andrew Jenks, brings us a fascinating new documentary called Dream/Killer. Ryan is convicted of murder and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Let’s be clear, there is zero evidence that Ryan was even in the area at the time. The entire case, if you can call it such a thing, is based upon a coerced confession of another young man with some serious issues. This is the tragic story of how the American judicial system is beyond broken. We’ve seen numerous young men convicted based on socio-economic background or the color of their skin, but it is still very unlikely that a middle-class white man would be in the same boat.We follow Ryan’s entire journey, with the help of his extraordinary parents, Bill and Leslie. Bill does everything in his power, including tours of the crime scene to anyone and everyone that will walk with him and listen to the evidence, setting up social media pages in support of Ryan, and tracking down one the most renowned lawyers in the country, Kathleen Zellner. Roadblocked at every turn, this documentary is full of twists and turns in the wake of shockingly awful work by The Ferguson’s first lawyer, witnesses fabricating stories, and the dubious practices of District Attorney-turned-Judge Kevin Crane. If there is one criminal in this entire story, it may be the one presently on a bench in Missouri.
Bill Ferguson‘s tireless efforts are rewarded after his son spends 9 1/2 years in prison. Kathleen Zellner is finally able to get Ryan released. Through years of exasperating setbacks, Bill and Leslie keep up Ryan’s spirits and lead his charge to freedom. Dream/Killer is an eye opening film. The scales of justice are definitely waited against the truth and they need to be fixed. Andrew Jenks agrees that the film is emotionally enraging. As an audience member, you walk away shaking your head and fuming. These are both compliments to the story Jenks is is trying to tell. He and The Fergusons have developed a genuine friendship. Jenks calls Ryan “A bit of a Gandhi figure” for his ability to stay so positive throughout this entire ordeal. The Fergusons love for each other is certainly unconditional. Never once did Bill or Leslie question Ryan’s innocence. Jenks says that he doesn’t think this story is over. There is still a murderer on the loose. With the popularity of the Serial podcast and HBO‘s The Jinx, there could not be a more timely introduction for Dream/Killer. Jenks also attributes the growing intrigue surrounding documentaries to Netflix. He believes it’s interface and the artistry in docs movie posters are attracting a newer, and perhaps younger audience.
I was fortunate enough to sit down with Ryan and Bill and discuss this film and their extraordinary family. Here is the audio from that interview. *At the very end, you’ll hear my private thoughts as I left the recorder on longer than intended.* I actually ran into Ryan the following day. He remembered me, asked me how I was doing, and we chatted like old friends. Welcome to The Ferguson family. Enjoy.
You can still catch two more screenings of Dream/Killer at the fest.
To find out more information, you can click the Tribeca Film Festival Guide 2015.