“The producers went to great lengths to portray an accurate and fair account of the events”


Distributor Kew Media
Producer Bat Bridge Entertainment
Length 6 x 60 minutes
Broadcast CNN (US)

The transformation of Patty Hearst from heiress to counter-culture terrorist is one of America’s most bizarre true crime tales.

The daughter of one of the country’s richest and most powerful dynasties was 19 years old when she was kidnapped from her Bay Area apartment in 1974.

Hearst was held hostage by a so-called revolutionary group, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), but the lines of captivity and combat became blurred when she announced that she was to join their number.

This CNN Original series covers the story in great detail, examining Hearst’s upbringing and kidnapping, through to her trial and transition back into American high society.

The radical story of patty hearst

Producer Bat Bridge Entertainment has neatly packaged together new evidence, archive material and a series of cinematic re-enactments into a six-episode docu-series.

Most of the source material is taken from Jeffrey Toobin’s bestselling unauthorised biography on the subject, American Heiress: The Wild Saga Of The Kidnapping, Crimes And Trial Of Patty Hearst.

Toobin – who also wrote the book The People v OJ Simpson on which the hit FX series was based – has come on board as an executive producer, bringing access to figures including Bill Harris, the man who claims to have abducted Hearst and her ex-fiancé, Steven Weed. However, the saga continues to take twists and turns off screen. 

Hearst did not endorse Toobin’s book and earlier this year, inspired by the #MeToo movement, she condemned both the author and CNN for telling a story that she believes romanticises her rape and torture.

According to Lizzie Fox, vice-president of CNN Original series, although Hearst declined to be interviewed for the series, “the producers went to great lengths to make sure to portray an accurate and fair account of the events that lead to Patty’s kidnapping, capture and eventual sentencing”.

The controversy does not appear to have harmed ratings for the series – the first and second episodes, which aired in February, came first in cable news among adults aged 25 to 54 in the 9pm and 10pm slots, according to Nielsen data.

Premium quality

The Hearst story is one of two CNN true crime series that distributor Kew Media is taking to Mip TV. The second, Unmasking The Golden Gate Killer, is a 5 x 60-minute series about the serial killer who went on a rampage in 1970s California.

“It’s nice to be able to offer both premium quality serialised true-crime documentaries to buyers,” says Kew Media executive vice-president of sales and distribution Jonathan Ford. He adds that he’s seeing interest in this genre from most English-speaking territories, as well as Europe and Latin America.corv