Culture

What Is 'The Disappearance Of Madeleine McCann' About? Director and Executive Producer Speak On Intention, Parent's Opposition

The quest to find Madeleine McCann first captivated global audiences in 2007. Now, nearly 12 years have passed, McCann still missing, and it’s wide-reaching media coverage stands as one of the most extreme examples of journalistic communication, community fear and global sympathy. Director Chris Smith and Executive Producer Emma Cooper set out to capture the infatuation with the British, 4-year-old’s disappearance from an Algarve, Portugal, resort in the latest Netflix documentary series The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

The documentary takes viewers inside the disappearance, evidence and media fascination with the unsolved case. Smith said the goal of the eight-part series is to show current audiences exactly what happened in the investigation.

“We hope that viewers get to see the full picture of why there are still no answers in this case - giving context to all the complexities that surrounded her disappearance,” Smith told Newsweek. “We wanted to give the most comprehensive and objective look at all the factors surrounding her disappearance and the months and years that followed—who all the players were, the leads that were chased, the misinformation in the media etc. and we did so by interviewing as many people as we could that touched the case from all sides.”

GettyImages-185029825 A photo of Madeleine McCann is displayed on a TV screen at an apartment in Berlin, on October 16, 2013 during the broadcast of German ZDF's 'Aktenzeichen XY' program. JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

Cooper agreed, and added many missing children’s cases follow similar possibilities. In order to get the full picture, Cooper added, viewers must watch the full series. “There are many other elements and themes at play—in particular the thousands of children who are missing in our society,” Cooper told Newsweek. “Through Madeleine's story, we were also able to point to the many missing children who are often not looked for in the world. As you can see in the series there are books of missing children - many of whom have been trafficked and are difficult to find.”

But this series, according to Smith, Cooper and Netflix, is not a true crime story like may of Netflix’s successful documentary releases. Though it focuses on crime, there is no who-done-it and no answers. What McCann’s story is, instead, is a reflection and an advocacy project.

“We look at all the elements of the ensuing years—the press, the various private investigators enlisted, the well-meaning benefactors over the years, the dawn of online trolling, missing children,” Cooper explained. “It is a forensic documentary series using a vast historical archive resource to walk the public through the timeline of the case over the past 13 years.”

The hardest part of creating a moving, timely piece that pays respect to McCann and her family was revolving around the reality that McCann, who would now be almost 16 years old, is still missing. McCann’s family, who continue to search for their daughter, does not approve of the series.

Cooper said, however, they aimed to keep the McCann’s comfortable with the coverage. “We have informed the McCanns of our intention with this series from the outset and asked them to contribute,” Cooper said. “We have also offered to show them the entire series prior to transmission and kept them informed throughout. While they chose not to participate, we believe that the series, two years in the making, is a comprehensive and thorough examination of the case over the past twelve years. We have interviewed more than 40 contributors including friends of the McCann family, eyewitness, private investigators, former suspects to make this as comprehensive an exploration as possible.”

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