Movie reviews: Netflix documentary Amanda Knox lays bare biases in sensational murder trial

Amanda Knox and her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito (both above) were cleared of the murder of Meredith Kercher last year.
Amanda Knox and her then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito (both above) were cleared of the murder of Meredith Kercher last year.PHOTO: NETFLIX

Makers of the Amanda Knox documentary want viewers to reflect on their biases

The documentary Amanda Knox (NC16, 92 minutes, now on Netflix) is almost as much about how news consumers perceive information as it is about the woman who was, at one time, charged and jailed in Italy for allegedly carrying out the 2007 murder splashed in headlines around the world.

Self-reflection is what its film-makers Brian McGinn and Rod Blackhurst saw as a primary goal.

McGinn, 31, talks about the biases through which people saw the case and its principal players, American student Knox; her boyfriend at the time, Raffaele Sollecito; and the victim, British exchange student Meredith Kercher, then aged 21.

"What we really saw was how viewers were looking through lenses at the people at the heart of the story. And one of those lenses was the role of gender," he says.

This is a story of colliding perspectives. But it all comes down to the tragedy of Kercher losing her life. When we vilify one person or another, it only takes us further away from that.

FILM-MAKER BRIAN MCGINN

McGinn and Blackhurst, 35, spoke to The Straits Times on the telephone recently from their home base in Los Angeles.

"There was a lot of examination of Knox's behaviour - how her eyes looked, whether she kissed her boyfriend outside the crime scene, whether she was doing cartwheels in the police station, whether she and Meredith got along," says McGinn.

"A lot of the conversation during the trial, and going on even today online, revolves around the idea of how women are supposed to grieve," he continues.

The media pack covering the trial reported breathlessly, and without scrutiny, the Italian prosecution's portrayal of the Knox flat as a palace of kink, a place where dangerous sex games were played by rich foreigners.

The naive Kercher had stumbled into that den of sin at the cost of her life, according to people such as the Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini.

The film scores a scoop in having Knox appear on camera, speaking at length, and also features interviews with Sollecito, Mignini and tabloid reporter Nick Pisa, the man who used phrases such as "Foxy Knoxy".

Early last year, Knox and Sol- lecito were cleared of the murder by Italy's highest court.

But since the release of the documentary, opinions have been polarised.

Some accuse McGinn and Blackhurst of taking Knox's side and of ignoring vital evidence; others criticise the film-makers for pushing a squishy human interest agenda, instead of pursuing the real villain: the Italian justice system, as personified by men such as Mignini.

Mignini's deeply conservative ideas about proper female behaviour have been found wanting, as has Pisa's muck-raking.

No one they interviewed had editorial control of the content, say the directors.

Blackhurst says that several of the people in the story felt the need to correct their public image, one that had been taken over by "salacious journalism".

"We let them all know we would show them the film before we released it, so that they could make sure that this new portrait of them was in their own words and reflected who they were as people."

People who see the documentary as leaning one way or another might be conflating their own views with those expressed in the film and both film-makers know that is inevitable.

Says McGinn: "People watching want to blame one person or another. This is a story of colliding perspectives. But it all comes down to the tragedy of Kercher losing her life. When we vilify one person or another, it only takes us further away from that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'Murder case back in the spotlight'. Print Edition | Subscribe