Since Gil Reyes is once again doing a screening of his movie ‘Searching for Elliott Smith’ in Denver, Colorado this time, there is a lengthy interview of the guy in Westword, and for once, the interviewer Robin Edwards has insisted on Elliott’s death quite a lot, an important aspect of the movie, despite the fact that Reyes has always said the movie was not focusing on this.
This is how Reyes described Jennifer Chiba’s first involvement in the project:
‘And then I showed it to Jennifer Chiba and some other people in L.A. and they agreed to help me out with it. So that’s how it came about. I wanted to do something a little bit more long form and a little more emotional. Just hearing from people, just their take from Elliott, and if I could get the circumstances surrounding his death from the only person alive who knew what happened and I got that. So I think that’s part of the reason people want to see the film. Just to clarify, it’s not just Elliott’s death. The film’s about an hour and a half, but I would say about fifteen minutes is dedicated to his death. Chiba’s not in the entire film. Most of the film is about his life and his friend’s reactions to his successes and his personality.’
Yeah, it’s not about Elliott’s death, but Chiba’s story about his last moment is the reason why people want to see the movie? Kind of a contradiction.
Edwards even asked Reyes if he thought he had solved the case with his movie (I paraphrase but this is the intention), and this is what Reyes answered:
‘The report’s inconclusive, but what we were trying to do is just having people see and hear from Jennifer Chiba herself. Because there are a lot of stories out there in the internet, and she’ll even tell you that a lot of the stuff are half-truths or not true at all. So what we wanted to do is just allow her to have her say. Period. I believe what she has to say, and I’m gonna have to believe that a lot of the people are gonna watch this and not believe what she has to say because it’s still an open case. But I think what the film allows you to do is to listen to her and make up your own mind based on the information presented.
I think there are a lot of people who will forever dislike Jennifer Chiba, even if the police came out tomorrow and said “We closed the case, we’re gonna rule it as a suicide. Period.” I still think that a lot of people wouldn’t like her, because, you know, she was the last person to see him alive and I think she feels guilty about not leaving the bathroom when Elliott told her to. I don’t know if you know that part of the story, it’s all in the film. She discusses about how they got into an argument, she locked herself in the bathroom, Elliott told her to come out, she refused, and then that’s when Elliott took his own life. And that’s a tough thing to live with for the rest of your life. I think some people already have their minds made up about what happened. I think it’s just unfair for people to peg her as a killer when the police haven’t named her a suspect. You know, you’re innocent until proven guilty. They haven’t arrested her. I talked to an LAPD source and this person basically told me that “We never thought she did it.” That’s what my source told me. But because it’s an open investigation they cannot comment on it. That’s what the source told me, that if we had evidence to arrest her we would have a long time ago.’
Since I am greatly responsible of the ‘stories out there in the internet’, that ‘are half-truths or not true at all’, I have to comment… why is he believing her? This guy has never talked to the family (and I have) and he has only heard one side of the story,… why is he blindly believing her? it’s simple, just because he wants to sell his movie which is totally endorsing her view.
also it is funny how he reverses the situation because I don’t have my mind made up about what happened, contrary to him,… he said it, he believes everything she said! Reyes said he talked to an LAPD source, I talked to the police and even directly to detective King who is in charge of the case, big difference from a ‘source’! And King never said ‘We never thought she did it’ to me, far from it. Curiously, Reyes told me the police had told him they thought it was a suicide, and now he is saying that ‘they cannot comment on it’? Again pure contradiction, and detective King confirmed me he couldn’t give an opinion and had certainly not said such a thing to Reyes.
In the rest of the interview you can almost feel some hesitation in Reyes’ answers, with sentences like:
‘It’s basically the coroner’s report that says the death could have gone either way. If you argue hard enough you can make a case for either one, I think.’
‘I think, I could be wrong, but a lot of people that didn’t like her originally used the open investigation as a way of pegging her and saying, okay, she did it. And then the internet, we’re in this era where you can just go online and post things anonymously without any responsibility and a lot of the stuff isn’t true. I know that stuff they’ve posted about me in regards to the film isn’t true.’
And Reyes is definitively talking about articles I have read, and rock nyc in the rest of the interview:
‘Oh, just somebody said something like we were banging each other. Somebody wrote that, and that’s definitely not true. They perpetuate stuff like that. I don’t know. I think a lot of it could be just bored teenagers but I know there are one or two people who aren’t teenagers that are perpetuating most of it that are, like, in their 50s that have nothing else better to do. This is what I say to them: I say that if they really have evidence linking Jennifer Chiba to murder, and they say they have sources, they should go to police, not post it on the internet. That’s just so not fair. And LAPD even has an anonymous tip line. They don’t have to give their names, they can just get on there and say what they have to say. Let’s put it this way, during my years of knowing her if I read anything remotely close, or if she told me anything remotely close to “I did it,” or if any of her friends said that, anything remotely close to that I would have snitched on her in an instant. But I didn’t hear anything like that. I don’t think that she killed him, but that’s just me.
What is unfair is to repeat always the same lies, I have talked three times to the detectives, and the LAPD has my complete name and all the rest. Of course there is no clear evidence, otherwise J Chiba would be in jail. We just have a long list of discrepancies and inconsistencies, an accumulation of oddities surrounding the case that should make anyone in his or her right mind, suspicious.
In case you want to read the full interview: http://blogs.westword.com/showandtell/2012/07/director_gil_reyes_searching_for_elliott_smith.php
Originally published on Rock NYC (July 29 2012)