On November 1, 2007, in Perugia, Italy, 21-year-old Meredith Kercher was found murdered in the bedroom of an apartment she was sharing with two Italian women and a 20-year-old American exchange student named Amanda Knox. Knox and her boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, said they realized something was wrong when they discovered Kercher’s door was locked, drops of blood in the bathroom, and a broken bedroom window. They proceeded to call the police.
What followed is a sensational story that tabloid journalists went crazy over, and which ended with Knox spending four years in an Italian prison following the murder, for which she was convicted, until she was ultimately acquitted.
Five years after being freed from prison because of DNA contamination and a year after Italy’s highest court exonerated her, a new documentary, “Amanda Knox,” delivers the definitive tell-all of the events.
To be released by Netflix on September 30, the movie had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and received rave reviews for its in-depth investigation of every aspect of the Knox saga told by many of the main players, including Knox.
Directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, like most people in the world, couldn’t get over how much media made the case a sensation. By 2011, when they started work on the movie, the Knox story dominated headlines once again when she was freed from prison.
“I think that for us we were a little bit confused by why it was so big and also how something that starts as an undeniable tragedy and a terrible act of violence becomes a piece of front-page news and that then becomes entertainment,” McGinn told Business Insider at TIFF. “So we thought it would be interesting in looking at how that happens and to try to get really deep inside to the roots of what really causes that kind of story.”
“There were so many headlines, and so many stories, and yet people didn’t seem to have any further clarity,” Blackhurst added.
What “Amanda Knox” reveals is how crucial mistakes in the handling of the crime scene and a false confession by Knox led to complete dysfunction in the case. But it also shows how journalists became obsessed with Knox.
Footage of her kissing Sollecito and showing little remorse for what happened to her roommate by the time news cameras arrived at the crime scene started the narrative. In the weeks and months to follow, Knox was branded as sex-crazed, and as the investigation continued, the theory was that Kercher was a victim in some deviant crime of passion involving Knox and Sollecito.
Though before this film, Knox had done the big TV interviews and a book once back in the US, Blackhurst and McGinn still felt Knox hadn’t opened up and given her side of the story, and neither had Sollecito, nor the lead investigator of the murder, Italian detective Giuliano Mignini.
“All of them felt this narrative the media put out there was not representative of who they were and we wanted to understand from a human point of view what it would feel like to have that applied to you and what it felt like to be caught up in these events and circumstances,” Blackhurst said.
So the filmmakers began trying to get access to everyone who was involved. But they made it clear that they would not move on the film until their subjects were comfortable.
“We met Amanda and Raffaele when they were acquitted in 2011, but it wasn’t until 2013 that she decided, on her own, that she was ready to talk,” Blackhurst said. “That was always very important to us to say we’re not going to come and dine and dash, we’re not trying to steal something out of your mouth and leak it on Twitter as quickly as possible. We want to put in the time to understand you as people.”
They shot Knox for the first time in 2014. Once she signed on, Raffaele, Mignini, and others including Nick Pisa, who broke many of the stories about the case for the Daily Mail, also agreed to talk.
But then there was explaining to an audience what likely happened to Kercher, and that meant diving into DNA evidence and deciding how to deliver the information as simply as possible.
The filmmakers used graphics to point out that Knox was never in the room where Kercher died, according to the DNA present in the room. They also showed that DNA evidence linking Knox to the knife thought to be used as the murder weapon was inconclusive.
“Initially we thought the graphics would be more complex,” McGinn said, “but what we realized quickly was the only way to keep it a human story and feel empathy for the people involved was to put it in more layman’s terms.”
Along with the graphics, McGinn and Blackhurst got the DNA experts from the trial to be in the movie. They had never previously done an interview about this case.
The filmmakers are most proud of bringing much-needed context to the moments that were only captured in small news bites around the world when the case was happening.
In “Amanda Knox,” we get never-before-heard audio recordings of Amanda and her mother speaking in prison, and some added clarity to the footage everyone remembers of Knox kissing Sollecito outside the murder scene. The documentary explains through interviews with Knox and Sollecito that it was not what it seemed.
“You can feel what it felt like for those people to be caught up at that time,” Blackhurst said of the movie. “You’re able to give context to this one little bit because you now can see and hear from them.”
“Amanda Knox” will be available on Netflix September 30.