Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Movie Review: Amanda Knox

Amanda Knox
Directed by: Rod Blackhurst & Brian McGinn.
Written by: Matthew Hamachek & Brian McGinn.
The Netflix documentary Amanda Knox is good documentary about the now infamous case, yet somehow certainly does feel like a little bit of a missed opportunity. For those unfamiliar with the case, the doc provides a good, concise, Clift Notes version of the case in 92 minutes that tracks the case from when Meredith Kercher was murdered through her and boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito’s initial conviction, then that conviction being overturned, and then re-instated, and then finally overturned once and for all by the Italian Supreme Court – a process that took the better part of the decade. It documents the fatally flawed investigation, the irresponsible media who sensationalized the story and the legal wrangling that took place during the course of the whole sordid affair. It has interviews with many of the key players – Knox herself, Sollecito, journalist Nick Pisa, who stands in for all of the journalists who blew this case up to epic proportions, and Prosecutor Guiliano Mignini, who became convinced early on that Knox was guilty based on her behavior after the body was discovered, and kept on pursuing his theory, even if there was little actual evidence backing it up. The documentary does simplify and streamline a lot of information to be sure – I think if you know nothing about the case going in, you’re going to leave with the impression that Knox is completely innocent. While I myself prescribe to that belief – I do think there is slightly more here than the documentary makes it sound like. And that’s one of the reasons this film, as good as it is, feels like an opportunity missed – in an era where we have seen The Jinx, Making a Murder, OJ: Made in America and Serial (among others), the case of Amanda Knox seems to be to one that deserves that kind of multi-part, multi-hour deep dive if you’re going to cover the case at all. There is certainly enough material here to support that.
The details of the case are now well known – American Amanda Knox was living for a year in Perugia, Italy – a picturesque small town – and moves in with British student Meredith Kercher. The night of the murder, Knox says she spent at her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, apartment, and came home to discover a bloodbath. The police believe Knox is lying  - in part because the observed her and Solleito kissing as the police worked the crime scene – and eventually got a “confession” out of her – although that confession hardly confessed to the crime, and the biggest single thing in it – that the third person involved was her boss, was completely disproved. The evidence in the case pointed to Rudy Guede – who did get convicted of the murder – as his DNA was all over Kercher’s room, and his feces in the toiler. There was little to no actual evidence implicating either Knox or Sollecito – but they pressed ahead anyway. Meanwhile, the case had become an international sensation – Knox was portrayed as a sexually insatiable predator – there were clearly leaks from inside the Italian police – like Knox’s prison diary getting out to the media, who of course, published it. What followed was the conviction, the overturning of the conviction, the reinstatement of the conviction, and the final overturning – all of which took a lot of time, since Italian justice moves very, very slowly.
The film is firmly pro-Knox – and really does make the media and the prosecution look bad – although perhaps another way to look at it is that the filmmakers gave both Pisa the journalist and Mignini the prosecutor, enough rope to hang themselves. Pisa talks about his journalistic ethics – not revealing the source for the diary for instance, yet at the same time admits that he never double checked anything, for fear of being scooped by someone else. He was basically a puppet for the prosecution, who printed whatever theories they had as if they were facts. Why? The story was big, and it sold newspapers. Mignini looks just as bad – he compares himself to Sherlock Holmes, showing his ego, and then goes on and on about Knox’s guilt – based on looking her in the eyes – and knowing what he saw there. His theory of the crime – with Knox as the mastermind, and Guede and Sollecito as two men willing to do anything to sexually gratify her, has no real basis in the evidence – its smoke and mirrors disguising itself as evidence. The film could have done a better job of perhaps showing some of the flaws the other way – for instance, it makes a big deal about disapproving the DNA evidence against Knox and Sollecito after an independent review, but fails to mention even those reviewers have had issues with contamination themselves.
Knox herself is probably the biggest get of the documentary – although she’s hardly been silent since this ended, the film does give her a chance to say just about whatever she wants (again, they could have pushed her – at least a little bit). She does come across as overly rehearsed throughout the movie – as if she has said this many times before, because she probably has.
As with many true crime docs, I do wish some attention had been paid to the victim – Meredith Kercher here is basically just a name uttered a few times, and never becomes more than that. The film doesn’t even do what OJ: Made in America did so brilliantly in the scene where the prosecutor detailed what Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman went through when they were murdered – that sequence made it impossible to forget that the whole OJ trial was about two very brutal murders – where real people died. This film doesn’t do something similar.
There is certainly more to the story of Amanda Knox, and the murder of Meredith Kercher, than is contained in the documentary. If one day, someone decides to do an OJ: Made in America type deep dive into the case, I’m sure they will have lots to cover, and will have no trouble filling up a long, documentary series on the case. What this film does do is give an overview of the case – a summary. It feels like there should be more here than there is – even if I do mostly like what is here.

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