During our recent webcam chat (watch above) about the documentary “Amanda Knox,” co-director Rod Blackhurst explains that he and collaborator Brian McGinn made their film to understand “what it was like for the people living at the heart of this story, to be inside of this tragic event that had been turned into this piece of sensational journalism that was appealing to people around the world.” This Netflix documentary feature, which numbers among the 145 eligible for Oscar consideration, gives viewers a first-hand look at the trial of Amanda Knox, an American exchange student who was convicted and later acquitted for the 2007 murder of another student in Italy.
It took five years for the duo to complete the film because, as McGinn reveals, the real-life participants, “had been so thoroughly covered in the news, and had been called so many names by the various different kind of factions and sides that played out on the fringes of this story, that they were all kind of reticent to participate.” The Emmy-nominated producer of the Netflix documentary series “Chef’s Table” (2016) admits that Knox, who spent almost two years in an Italian prison, initially turned them down for an interview before finally agreeing to take part three years later.
During that time, McGinn adds, “we had to find a lot of new perspectives, things people had not seen before.” Getting the film made, he explains, “was a little bit like a long-form investigative journalist. We were not only trying to gain the trust of sources that didn’t necessarily want to speak, but we were also trying to track down information and pieces of evidence and pieces of archival that helped illuminate the story further.”
The film also examines the news media’s sensational coverage of the trial. “What we saw was that people around the world had a baked-in assessment or judgement of these people based on the way they were accessing this story,” says Blackhurst. He sees parallels in the coverage of Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. “There’s a large conversation happening about what are the expectations of female behavior, and what does that possibly say about a woman?” In the case of both Clinton and Knox, he asks, “are those the relevant conversations or the important conversations to be had?”
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