Directors: Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn
Cast: Amanda Knox
Watch Amanda Knox online in the UK: Netflix
On 1st November 2007, British foreign exchange student Meredith Kercher was murdered at home in the Italian town of Perugia. A few days into the police investigation, Amanda Knox, Kercher’s American housemate, was arrested with Raffelo Sollecito, at the time Knox’s boyfriend. The case became a global obsession, played out daily in the newspapers, all competing against one another for the next salacious scoop. It was fried gold for tabloid rags: it featured beautiful young women, a clash of cultures, sex and death. As Amanda Knox was unfairly remade in the public eye as ‘Foxy Knoxy the temptress’, the subsequent trials ensured a war was waged in the court of opinion, with everything else feeling secondary.
Enter Netflix’s new documentary. Amanda Knox speaks! But what does she have to say? The answer is very little, besides self-pitying, doe-eyed pleas and aggrandising statements about how she’s become a monster in the eyes of the world and how unwarranted and unjust it all is. Maybe. Maybe not. But either way, getting Knox on board forfeits any claims of objectivity, one of the film’s two biggest failings (the other being hardly any time dedicated to the victim). It’s a devil’s bargain the directors, Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, were prepared to make in order to get access. It’s also really the documentary’s raison d’etre, its big coup, the UPS, the reason people will watch. There are attempts at appearing balanced, but nowhere near enough. While Knox comes across occasionally as odd and callous, there’s never anything truly damning presented.
What emerges will teach us absolutely nothing new. Knox comes across just as she always has: aloof, steely, her answers occasionally shifty and often pure codswallop. No wonder folk think she’s hiding something. The complicated epic murder case and trial has been cut down to a breezy 90 minutes and is a typical mix of talking heads and archive footage. No great shakes, really. Such a lean running time, too, is bound to throw up issues by omission. And it does. Timelines are ignored or accepted at face value and evidence pointing to Knox and Sollecito’s guilt is largely absent. It would be churlish to describe Amanda Knox as a PR vehicle in her quest to change public opinion, mostly in Europe, but it skirts such shores.
There’s no doubt Italian police and prosecutors screwed up, but the notion – the American obsession, if you will – that they were Keystone Cops and had never dealt with a murder or successfully prosecuted anybody before – is ridiculous. This cultural antagonism is hilariously brought up by the lawyer of Rudy Guede, when he says one of the first faculties of Law was established in Italy in 1308. In 1308 America, people were drawing buffalos on cave walls. Cultural snobbery works both ways, but it’s a stinging rebuke nonetheless, and a perfect encapsulation of the war of words between the US media and the European view on things. Ostensibly tracking the media sensationalism and court proceedings right up to 2015’s exoneration – there were two appeal hearings – Netflix’s documentary is not an in-depth plunge into the murder or case by any stretch of the imagination. Knox is pitched as more of a victim than Kercher. Her glacial stares to the camera – are they supposed to be provocative, or an attempt at countering the myth of ‘Foxy Knoxy’? Miss Knox, seated against a grey backdrop, lit plainly, sans makeup, and looking directly at the camera, with a sometimes fraught tone, longs to suggest a young woman who has been to hell and back, but regardless of whether you think she’s innocent, you wish she’d show a bit more class.
Amanda Knox is available on Netflix UK from Friday 30th September, as part of a £7.49 monthly subscription.