‘This is really grim and low’: Netflix’s John McAfee documentary attacked by people who appeared in it

By Jon Swartz

The tech mogul’s ex-girlfriend is shown suggesting he’s still alive, but tells MarketWatch her words were twisted out of context, just one of many complaints from family members and others close to the technology pioneer. cyber security about the new popular movie and how it was made

In the chilling climax of “Running With the Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee,” a documentary that has become one of Netflix’s most popular movies since its premiere last week, an ex-girlfriend of the technology saying that she received a call from him after his death.

The quote haunts and provokes with alleged evidence that McAfee, a shadowy figure whose wild life attracted a cult following around the world, did not kill himself in a Spanish prison more than a year ago, a conspiracy theory that followers began to forward almost as soon as the news of his death was announced.

The woman who said that now insists her comments were twisted out of context.

“What I said was that I got a call from Texas from someone saying it was John, who said he was still alive in Spain. I told the filmmakers I didn’t know if it was him or someone pretending to be him. I said that in the movie, but it wasn’t used,” Samantha Herrera told MarketWatch last week.

In his only interview since the documentary premiered, Herrera shared with MarketWatch, in a lengthy phone conversation, his frustration and anger. Discussing that phone call that was supposed to be from McAfee, he said he questioned the mysterious voice on the phone to see if it might be McAfee’s, but doubts grew as the voice struggled to answer most of his questions.

“I’m so upset. They’re making a lot of money on my name, and I asked them to erase my face. This is really shady and low,” said Herrera, a mother of two young children who said she recently lost her job due to the notoriety stemming from it. of the documentary. “They destroyed my name. People harass me on social media.”

Like its theme, “Running With the Devil” is a ghostly tale of death, sex, drugs, guns, and cryptocurrencies, but also a hair-raising descent into deception, media manipulation, falsehoods, and self-aggrandizement. And, like everything related to the late cybersecurity pioneer, it has quickly turned into outlandish rumors that have sparked debate, controversy, and the threat of legal action.

Detailed reports: John McAfee’s body is trapped in a Spanish prison morgue as a fight rages over his legacy

“This Frankenstein movie monster is a cautionary tale about fabricated reality and indirect truth,” said former Vice editor-in-chief Rocco Castoro, who appears in the film and said he is now considering a lawsuit. “That is the only truth about John McAfee. He was a bad faith actor before the fake news, a protoplasm of Trump and his team.”

Castoro traveled to Belize in late 2012 to meet and film McAfee after he was named a person of interest in the murder of American businessman Gregory Faull, and that footage forms the backbone of the film. Castoro says that he owns the main footage used in the film and claims that the director and producers of “Running With the Devil” were not authorized to use the footage, but instead stole the presentation of their own documentary, titled “Running With John McAfee”. – and denied him a producer credit and payment.

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“Curious Films’ repeated requests for me to sign off on a release and my repeated refusals warrant further investigation as to why they felt they needed a release in the first place,” Castoro told MarketWatch.

Krista Worby, Castoro’s manager and documentary filmmaker, said Curious Films, the creators of “Running With the Devil,” used footage of their client without proper credit and lifted their presentation platform. “My question is, how [did] Does Netflix become legal to approve the release of the document? This is our document. They literally ripped him off,” he said.

Castoro said Curious Films also didn’t mention that the documentary would be distributed by Netflix, a statement echoed by Herrera and John McAfee’s daughter, Jen, who expressed disbelief that the documentary gave credence to a debunked theory that John McAfee was involved in the death of his own father

“They didn’t make a documentary,” Jen McAfee told MarketWatch. “This feels a lot more like a James Bond movie.”

More From Jon Swartz: The Brilliant (And Very Dark) John McAfee I Got To Know

Netflix Inc. (NFLX) did not respond to emails seeking comment on the McAfee documentary, which is receiving mixed reviews but was ranked No. 7 in Netflix’s top 10 movies for the past week despite its debut at middle of the week; the streaming service called it the second most popular movie over the weekend. Netflix’s documentary division has distributed three of the last five Academy Award-winning documentaries, while adding voluminous amounts of true-crime features on the likes of Marilyn Monroe, serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Epstein and the infamous kidnapper DB. Copper.

Representatives for Curious Films, including founder Dov Freedman, McAfee documentary director Charlie Russell and producer Faye Planner, as well as the production company’s U.S. attorney Kathleen Conkey, did not return emails or calls seeking comment for several days. . In an interview with Esquire published this month, Russell explained Herrera’s latest supercharged quote: “I don’t know what I think, and I don’t think she does. She says it, then looks at the camera and I can.” We won’t find out if she thinks she’s real or not.”

The production company has also dodged repeated calls from critics who participated, including Castoro, Herrera and Jen McAfee.

“I’m not looking to be litigious about this,” Castoro told MarketWatch. “His family deserves to have their story told.”

Controversy follows McAfee, even in death

The controversy surrounding the mysterious McAfee is not a surprise. Unfounded conspiracy theories and myths about McAfee’s life were often propagated and spread by the man himself, a great storyteller who had a slippery grasp of the truth. Exacerbating McAfee’s fantasy stories were a gang of parasites, an arsenal of weapons, and a seemingly endless supply of drugs and alcohol.

“The drugs enhanced his psychosis, his paranoia,” cameraman Robert King, who partnered with Castoro on the trip to Belize and shot the footage used throughout the documentary, told MarketWatch. “John had enough.”

After traveling with McAfee in the US and abroad, “Syria felt like a vacation,” said King, who risked his life shooting video in war-torn countries before filming McAfee’s flight from Belize to Guatemala and the US in late 2012. King also recorded the later tours of the US, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic, and said he allowed the documentary to use that footage.

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“He was a narcissist who was emotionally distraught and hid it well,” said Alex Cody Foster, author of the forthcoming book “The Man Who Hacked the World: A Ghostwriter’s Descent Into Madness with John McAfee.”

“I saw violent outbursts of his temper. He once gave a guy $400,000 in crypto to buy some cars, but the guy squandered it and John ended up threatening to kill him and his family,” said Foster, who traveled for five weeks. . with McAfee in 2018 and appears on “Running With the Devil”.

It is Foster who brings up the speculation about McAfee’s role in the death of his abusive father. Some suggest that John McAfee killed his father, Don McAfee, and faked suicide, a claim categorically denied by McAfee’s associates, who say John McAfee was at school when his father died.

In 2016’s “Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee,” Oscar-nominated director Nanette Burstein (“American Teen,” “The Kid Stays in the Picture”) accused the computer security pioneer of two murders and one rape. She said he led a small army of armed thugs in Belize and singled out one as the gunman in Faull’s murder.

John McAfee vehemently denied the charges in an interview with this reporter in 2016, but members of the McAfee family are convinced he was present at Faull’s shooting death in Belize. And nearly everyone questioned on camera on “Running With the Devil” told MarketWatch they believe he was capable of violence, citing personal interactions with McAfee.

But many of those accounts are missing from the finished documentary. An underlying theme of the criticism is that the filmmakers filmed hours of interviews that boiled down to a single sensational quote, as appears to be the case with Herrera. McAfee’s first wife, Jen McAfee’s mother, was interviewed for hours, but she does not appear in the film, according to the family.

Foster said he and other on-camera subjects signed waivers knowing the final word on the footage belonged to the director, and it was unclear what form the project would take. Foster and Castoro said they believe Netflix decided to go with a documentary instead of a multi-episode miniseries, which they believe led to a potentially rushed and last-minute cut of the film.

For more: John McAfee died by suicide, Spanish court rules after lengthy delay

The film abruptly ends with the suggestion that McAfee is alive, glossing over much of the last few years of his life: his failed attempts in 2016 and 2020 to become the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president, his appearance on the world of cryptocurrencies, his October 2020 arrest in Spain for tax evasion in the US and his suicide in a prison outside Barcelona on June 23, 2021. McAfee’s body remains in Spain amid disputes legal, more than a year after his death.

“I wanted to get the movie out. I didn’t feel cheated,” cameraman King told MarketWatch. “I am happy that the viral eyes are focused on the Spanish judicial system. The film puts pressure on the Spanish authorities to close this case so that it does not fester in their system. People deserve the right to be buried after their death” .

-Jon Swartz


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

08-31-22 2021ET

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