Another documentary. Another TV-MA. I understand this one. You full on see unaltered crime scene photos. Not only should students be nervous about watching it, but there is something very haunting about watching death.
I should start off by putting a disclaimer to the above statement. In no way is the footage exploitative. This is a documentary about a real crime and a fundamental aspect to the crime was the amount of violence incurred upon the victim. But there is a line in the sand between Hollywood movie violence and real, nitty-gritty crime scene footage. I don't want to pigeonhole this movie for a few seconds of footage because I do believe the movie is worth the watch.
When Netflix's Making a Murderer came out, my wife and I were riveted. We joined the national discussion about police corruption, the rights of the prisoner, whether justice could be served and so on. Perhaps because we had recommended the show so often, Netflix decided to return the favor and heavily recommended Amanda Knox to us. This was a little bit of a different situation. Like the newest season of the Serial podcast, we had been aware of Amanda Knox's story from simply existing during the time period. We had a frame of reference for what was going on and wanted to know something more about this story. Probably, the worst side of me wanted to judge someone for doing something evil, be it Knox herself or like Making a Murderer, we wanted to judge the police. Yes, this sick and poisoned side of me got what it wanted, but I did walk away with more.
In many ways, this documentary covers the same themes as Ace in the Hole. For those unaware of Billy Wilder's hidden gem, the story surrounds sensationalism surrounding a real world problem in the hopes that headlines will draw attention to the reporters and news outlets rather than the story itself. I don't know if Nick Pisa, the journalist, was taken out of context or what, but the story almost surrounds his blind zeal and his desperation for success. While much of the documentary lays out the order of the events, the documentarians succeed most at explaining why things got so out of hand. The reason being is apparently Nick Pisa...or those of his ilk. Desperate for headlines and catchy nicknames, the press had swallowed up every word of a murder-mystery-novel obsessed detective who had mentally found the most interesting version of events in his head. Yes, there is quite a bit of blame to be placed on chief prosecutor Giuliano Mignini. His obsession with the darker side of things and his need to be a hero under an intense desire for justice from the community blinded an already ignorant individual. (Note: I'd like to point out an odd choice by the directors here. They kept stressing that many of his faults may have had origins in his devout Catholicism and I'm not sure what connects the two. Is the assumption that it takes a willfully ignorant person to become a Catholic? Not a fan.)
But every time we see Mignini, he is immediately buried by the obsession of journalists like Nick Pisa. Pisa admits in the documentary to yellow journalism, actively taking elements of Knox's statements out of context. Placing doubt on clearly innocent phrases like "Foxy Knoxy" as a nom de plume for a murderer was absurd. Admittedly, I'm getting most of my inside knowledge from this documentary which clearly posits that Knox is innocent, but there's something slimy about the whole thing.
There's so much here and there is so much that is criminal. Yes, Amanda Knox is weird, but not unreasonably so. Some of her choices were odd. The police aren't as blatantly trying to pin stuff on her like Brendan Dassey, but there are echoes of intent here make these cops spiritual siblings. I don't know what it is about this being the era of police corruption, but there is something fascinating about the idea that someone should be considered innocent until declared guilty. But echoing the end of Chinatown, this is Italy.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.