At the Toronto International Film Festival, a world premiere of a documentary featuring former University of Washington student Amanda Knox, who was accused, convicted, and eventually exonerated of murder.
TORONTO –“Either I’m a psychopath in sheep’s clothing,” says Amanda Knox, gazing calmly into the camera, “or I am you.”
The documentary “Amanda Knox” made its debut to the press at the Toronto International Film Festival this morning (its official world premiere is tonight), in advance of its arrival on Netflix September 30. And it addresses, from its opening frames, the polarizing nature of the story, emphasized in Netflix’s recent release of duelling trailers for the film: Do you believe her, or don’t you?
“Amanda Knox” unfolds as a “Rashomon”-style tale, in which the key players face the camera and tell the story from their own perspective. Much of the details are familiar: Knox, a former University of Washington student, and her Italian then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were accused, and later convicted, of the 2007 murder of Knox’s Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italia, where Knox and Kercher were exchange students. After the conviction was overturned, they were found guilty in a second trial, but exonerated in 2015 by the Italian Supreme Court. Both Knox and Sollecito were interviewed for the film, as were British tabloid journalist Nick Pisa and Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini.
The filmmakers, Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, balance the Errol Morris-ish simplicity of the interviews with lurid footage of the crime scene (lots of blood) and some audio recordings of phone calls and jailhouse conversations. But mostly, without editorializing, they just let the witnesses speak — among them the DNA experts whose eventual testimony led to Knox and Sollecito’s eventual exoneration — and I suspect some members of the lingering Amanda-is-guilty camp might revise their opinions by the end of the running time. And it’s fascinating — if a bit stomach-churning — to hear Pisa cheerfully discussing how the brutal murder of a countrywoman boosted his career, and that some of the wild theories about the killing (many spread under his byline) were “crazy, really.” (He dismisses any thought that he might have checked the facts before publishing; explaining that “it doesn’t work like that.”)
For Knox — who’s reportedly in Toronto today for the premiere, though she’s not talking to the press — the film may serve as closure. She’s shown in recent footage, living in a modest Seattle cottage, riding a ferry in the rain, dodging the attention she gets on the streets. “I think people love monsters,” she says in the film, looking back on how her case fascinated and divided its watchers. “So when they get the chance, they want to see them.”