Julien Neaves, Editor
Warning: This article contains content about suicide that may be disturbing to some readers and discretion is advised. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts please call a suicide hotline in your country. You can find a number by clicking here.
On July 1, 2018 all 11 members of the Chundawat family in Burari, Dehli, India were found dead in their double-story house. Ten were found hanging and blindfolded, while the eldest, the grandmother, was found laying on the ground, strangled. The youngest were two 15 year-old boys.
This tragic event is explored in a three-part limited docuseries House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths by director Leena Yadav. The first part focuses on the immediate aftermath, the second on the why, and the third looks backward and forward. And it is all a very difficult, heartbreaking watch.
The deaths of the picture-perfect Indian family are discovered to be the result of a bizarre ritual. I’m not sure if they could be characterised as a cult but they had some strange beliefs. Some of them were highly educated and working professionals, which shows that almost anyone can be susceptible to a twisted belief system.
I’m not a major fan of true crime docs (that’s Alice’s bag) but I can tell you this series is very well done. The mix of archival footage and interview segments is well balanced and the editing is expertly done. There are several interviews with relatives, friends, journalists, police, forensic pathologists, psychologists and other experts. While delving into the lives of the family and their dark secret (“secrets” is a bit of a misnomer) the documentary also examines the tragedy in the context of the media and sensationalism as well as psychologically and sociologically.
One of the film’s strengths is how it makes an effort to humanise the victims and the weight of these lives lost is heavy throughout. The pain and loss felt by their friends and relatives is quite heartbreaking. And even after the investigation it is still not totally clear (to this viewer at least) whether it was murder, mass suicide or an accidental death. Or even a mix of all three. There are definitely many unanswered questions.
So while not very pleasant viewing House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths is an interesting watch and one I would highly recommend.
Editor Jules’s Score: 8 out of 10
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.