Years before she was murdered, Madison Hamburg’s mother Barbara Hamburg gave him a gift that would shape his life forever. “My parents told me that they were getting divorced the day before Christmas when I was 11 and on Christmas Day they bought me a Handycam,” Hamburg tells Gold Derby at our Meet the Experts: Television Documentary panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). From that moment on, Madison would use film as a coping mechanism for when things got difficult in his life. “I sort of like lost myself and just filming the world around me. It was a sort of escapism at that point, but it helped me develop a language for communicating a lot of stuff that I can’t properly articulate.”
“Murder on Middle Beach,” which can currently be streamed on HBO Max, features Madison telling the story of how his mother was murdered in his Connecticut hometown in 2010. The crime has yet to be solved and Madison spends the documentary not only looking for answers as to who may have committed the crime, but also discovering things about his mother that he never knew. Among the secrets that get drawn out in the film are mysterious financial dealings from his father, strong animosity between family members and aspects of Barbara’s life including alcoholism, recovering from it and involvement in a multi-level marketing scheme.
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The series features a lot of tension as Madison asks sensitive questions of his family members, but none had more tension than Madison’s interviews with his father Jeffrey as he continuously dodged questions relating Barbara’s murder. The scenes with Madison talking to Jeffrey are secretly filmed and recorded and by the end of the documentary, Jeffrey is not happy that he’s been secretly filmed. “The last time I talked to my dad is on camera in the series and he wouldn’t take my call.” While his father has been evasive, Madison says that he still wants a relationship with him. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions and I’m ready to talk about that and re-establish a relationship with him when he’s ready to answer those. The ball’s sort of in his court.”
When Madison first started exploring the idea of making a documentary about his mother’s murder, he wanted to make sure it was a story about identity and not your run-of-the-mill true crime story. “The true crime genre is really difficult because they’re oftentimes there’s the urge to fetishize how brutal a crime was or how notorious the killer was, and in this really weird, competitive nature that the families sort of get lost in and the victims get lost.” Over a the course of pitching the project for a year, Madison came to an emotional moment about who this documentary is meant for. “This isn’t a story for people who like true crime or murder stories. This is a story for anybody who has a mom.”
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