If you regard yourself as a serious true-crime buff, you have surely heard of the harrowing and mysterious disappearance of student Elisa Lam. With the findings of the case still questioned seven years on, streaming platform Netflix is doing what they do best, by releasing a true crime documentary on Lam's disappearance and death, titled Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel.
The four-episode series will provide a deep-dive into the extremely bizarre case and the viral footage of Lam's last moments which accompanied it. The 21-year-old Canadian native arrived at downtown Los Angeles hotel, the Cecil Hotel in February 2013. Weeks after she vanished into thin air – leaving behind all of her possessions, including her wallet and ID in her hotel room – her body was found in one of the water tanks on the hotel's roof. Although her death was officially ruled as accidental drowning, many self-appointed internet sleuths have continued to question the suspicious circumstances around her death.
The documentary will be directed and produced by true-crime veteran, Joe Berlinger, who is the man behind Netflix’s hit series; Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.
“As a true crime documentarian, I was fascinated in 2013 when the elevator video of Elisa Lam went viral and legions of amateur detectives used the internet to try to solve the mystery of what happened to her, a 21-year-old Canadian tourist on her first trip to Los Angeles,” said Berlinger.
“So, when journalist Josh Dean, who is also a producer on the project, brought us his research into this case, we realised there was as an opportunity to do something different by not just telling the story of Elisa’s disappearance, but to create a series that explores a particular location’s role in encouraging or abetting crime — or the perception thereof.”
The Crime Scene series is a different direction for Berlinger, who traditionally focuses on individual crimes and criminals. Contrastingly, the series focuses on the role a particular location plays in the making and execution of a crime – diving into the history of the Cecil Hotel itself, including its humble origins and unfortunate notoriety.
“My past projects have leaned into individual crimes and criminals, but I have never explored the role a particular location has played in creating an environment in which multiple crimes seemingly take place over and over again,” Berlinger continued.
“The fact that Elisa disappeared in a location that has a multi-decade history of crimes is what made her case fascinating to me.”
The Netflix documentary on the Elisa Lam case will premier globally on the streaming platform on February 10.