‘The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez’ takes over and shocks Netflix viewers

Gabriel Fernandez, pictured, died in Los Angeles, Calif. in 2013 at the hands of his own mother Pearl Fernandez. (Courtesy of The Sun)Gabriel Fernandez, pictured, died in Los Angeles, Calif. in 2013 at the hands of his own mother Pearl Fernandez. (Courtesy of The Sun)

Breanna Hill, Arts & Entertainment Editor 

I’ve been hooked on documentaries for years now. Every time a new one comes out I tend to watch it within the first few days of its release date, especially if it has something to do with crime. Unfortunately, there has been a lack of documentaries to my knowledge, until February 26 of this year when “The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez” hit Netflix.

To be quite honest with you I hadn’t really heard much about Gabriel until I watched this documentary. I believe I remember seeing his name in the news back in 2013 after his death, but hey, I was fourteen at the time and I didn’t really care about much other than my friends and the occasional boy crush here and there. I didn’t know the severity of the situation and I had no earthly idea what he went through, and I truly believe that nobody will ever fully understand what Gabriel went through during his short-lived life.

One of the first things I noticed about the limited series on Netflix is the warning at the beginning of every episode (six total). Some crime documentaries have these warnings to viewers, and yes, other crime documentaries have their fair share of hair-raising moments, but this documentary is the only one I have seen so far that has made me sit in bed contemplating for hours on end how this brutal situation could have possibly happened in real life, all the while the chill bumps never leaving my arms.

The documentary focuses on more than just telling what occurred and what happened to Gabriel, and shares more than the who-done-its. It focuses on all the contributing factors that led up to Gabriel’s death including the brutal torture, the involvement of the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS), the trials of Gabriel’s killers and the aftermath of the entire traumatic event.

Not all documentaries are able to bring all the contributing factors of the situation to light like this one did. The director, Brian Knappenberger, talked to several people who were in direct connection with the case including journalists, social workers and they even gained access to tapes of Gabriel’s siblings talking about their brother and what their parents did to him.

This documentary is truly captivating and gut wrenching. I’m not usually the type to grow uncomfortable watching even the nastiest documentaries, but this one has exceeded even my comfort level.

I believe that this documentary cannot be described. The situation laid out in the documentary cannot be described. I could not even begin to summarize what happened to this boy back in 2013, or the events leading up to his death. I cannot describe the anger and frustration that not only I but other viewers feel after learning about how the system failed him multiple times.

If you’re able to stomach the reality of what this boy went through and watch this documentary I highly urge you to. It’s difficult to watch, I will admit, but it is a very well documented account of this boy’s life that was cut short and it deserves to be seen and appreciated for the piece of art that it is.

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