The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne HotDocs13 Review

Posted 9 years ago by myetvmedia

The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne

How does a poor single, African American woman become one of the worlds most notorious jewel thief?  After spending a long career stealing and taking advantage of people, Doris Payne, now 81, is facing justice again.

Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina’s world premiere documentary The Life And Crimes Of Doris Payne, takes us through Doris Payne’s life of crime. According to Doris, stealing is not a crime: “I didn’t think it was stealing, I thought, I am not giving it back, there is a difference”. The unapologetic Doris leaves behind her a trail of stolen items worth $2 million. Pond and Marcolina’s extensive archival research and candid interviews cleverly reveal how Payne managed to jet-set her way into any Cartier or Tiffany’s from Monte Carlo, Paris, London to Switzerland or Japan and walk out with small fortunes.


Using her natural grace and charm, she would engage the clerk, asking to see an assortment of items. Using her “Slide Hand Game” where she would look at jewelry pieces, move them around, wear them, move them some more with constant movement at a dizzying pace, then she would convince the clerk to trust her by giving back one of the missing pieces, have him look away again and then grab the one she wanted. Mind-boggling. She never got caught stealing in a jewelry store. Despite numerous arrests, she escaped police custody on several occasions.

This is an absolutely riveting story, far more interesting than some of the blockbuster films being released this year. Being a black woman in the 50’s, in a time when black people were under intense scrutiny and being able to pull off such a scam for so many years is incredible. Although Doris deserves what she gets, she strikes a compassionate cord. Raised in poverty in Slab Fork, West Virginia, she had a good reason in her mind for stealing: payback. She can charm anyone dressed to the nines. She is smart, using Town & Country magazine like a shopping list. She is skilled with her “Slide Hand Game” and so her designated path is to rip off jewelers all over the world. It is a profound story and both directors keep the pace quite lively, you won’t be disappointed.


Christophe Chanel


The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne

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