Does the series ‘Ghislaine Maxwell: Epstein’s Shadow’ whitewash the enigmatic heiress?
LONDON (Jewish News) – She is the heir to the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, a socialite with enviable royal and political ties – and the accused lady of a convicted sex offender.
Ghislaine Maxwell is a woman apparently born with a silver spoon in her mouth, who is now languishing in a Brooklyn jail, awaiting trial for helping Jeffrey Epstein abuse girls as young as 14.
For those who remember Maxwell as a child, attended Oxford University with her, or partied socially, it’s hard to reconcile their understanding of her with the woman accused of cooking up victims for Epstein.
But maybe they never really knew Maxwell.
Now a new documentary attempts to dig deeper into the enigmatic heiress, with a fascinating three-part portrayal of her life.
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“Ghislaine Maxwell: Epstein’s Shadow,” which aired in the US on the Peacock streaming service on June 24 and June 28 in the UK on Sky Documentaries, features interviews with former friends, associates and alleged victims , leaving at its end “a pretty complete mosaic,” according to executive producer Emma Cooper.
“You have a woman we’ve been writing about and we know she has ties to a man who is talked about a lot, and yet she remains a mystery,” says Cooper, whose most recent credits include “The Disappearance of Madeleine. McCann ”from Netflix. . “
“Barbara Shearer [the director] I had been working there for several years and when I was approached my starting question was: “Who is she and how come we know so little about her?” This is actually the line that we follow throughout all three episodes, ”Cooper said.
Cooper speaks of the “overlapping testimony” provided by his interviewees, which includes Prince Andrew’s ex-girlfriend Lady Victoria Hervey, close ex-friend Christopher Mason and alleged victim Maria Farmer, resulting in “a very good basis for understanding who Ghislaine is “.
The series begins at the very beginning of Maxwell’s life. She was born in 1961 as the ninth and youngest child to French scholar Elisabeth Maxwell and Robert Maxwell, a ruthless Holocaust survivor, war hero and media baron of Czech origin.
Just two days before his birth, his brother Michael, 15, was involved in a car accident that left him in a prolonged coma until his death six years later.
The documentary shows how, for much of her youth, Ghislaine was effectively ignored, as the family faced her plight. This was a factor in which the young girl felt neglected and developed anorexia.
At the age of three, Maxwell sat on his mother’s lap and poignantly reminded her, “Mum, I exist.
From that point on, the Maxwells – who lived at the 53-room Headington Hill Hall in Oxford – went out of their way to lavish affection on their youngest child, but it was with his father that Maxwell shared a particularly close bond. .
When Maxwell was 21, Robert Maxwell appointed her director of the Oxford United Football Club, which he owned in 1982, and it was she who accompanied him to parties and networking events.
One interviewee notes that Robert Maxwell “preferred to have her on his arm rather than Betty”.
He even named his luxury yacht after him – the same boat that would later figure in the center of his shock death in 1991, when he was found drowned just off the Canary Islands.
The tycoon’s untimely death – which Maxwell said was not an accident or suicide, but murder – sparked the collapse of his publishing empire, as banks called for loans, exposing yet another side most heinous in history: Robert Maxwell had stolen more than £ 440 million (roughly $ 610 million) from his own companies’ pension funds.
As Anna Pasternak, her contemporary from Oxford, puts it: “It was daddy’s little girl. But everything went wrong when dad turned out to be a con artist.
With his brothers Ian and Kevin involved in the pension fraud (although both were later acquitted of all charges), Maxwell sought to start a new life in New York City as a socialite and, as the ‘calls Pasternak, to “find a replacement dad”.
That man was Epstein, who, as the documentary reveals, was introduced to Maxwell by his father.
As the series teases, the similarities between the two were compelling. Both had an insatiable desire to earn money, coming from underprivileged backgrounds.
The two were notorious for their unethical business relationship, with Epstein being implicated by former business partner Steven Hoffenberg for his involvement in one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in American history – although, unlike Hoffenberg, he was probably never charged.
Oddly enough, the two were also suspected of being caught up in the murky world of espionage – including Robert Maxwell who is said to work for MI6, KGB and Mossad – as well as arms trafficking.
Cooper agrees that Epstein may have walked well in a vacuum as Maxwell mourned his father.
She says, “I don’t think it takes too much of a leap of faith for her to transfer this very close relationship with Robert Maxwell to another man who could be seen as relatively similar to his father. People who knew them both openly theorize about it. It’s an interesting connection to make and we allude to it.
Pasternak offers additional insight, claiming that Maxwell “came across as that raunchy extrovert – and you get the feeling she would have done anything to please a man.”
The documentary then explores Epstein’s empowerment claims against Maxwell, who has been charged with seducing minors, child sex trafficking and perjury.
The resulting image of Maxwell brings together an uncomfortable combination of a woman who has both been a victim and victimized others.
Farmer, an aspiring artist who was hired as Epstein’s secretary until, as she puts it, she was abused one night by him and Maxwell, has only one opinion of the alleged madam: “C ‘is a monster. “
Whatever conclusion viewers are drawn to about Maxwell, who is set to stand trial in November, one thing becomes more and more evident – in trying to answer who the real Ghislaine Maxwell is, more questions are raised. , leaving the feeling that she is an enigma that can never be fully unraveled.