Country: United States
Duration: 92 minutes
If you want to see what a modern-day witch hunt looks like then watch the Netflix Original documentary Amanda Knox (2016), which tells the tale of Amanda Marie Knox, a young American studying abroad, who became embroiled in an international murder mystery in which she was cast as the arch villain.
In 2008, Knox, a linguistics student at the University of Washington, took part in an exchange programme which sent her to the medieval city of Perugia in Italy. She shared an apartment with a British student called Meredith Kercher who was there on a similar academic scheme.
What should have been a year of culture, sight-seeing and immersion in the Italian language took the most horrifying turn imaginable, when 21-year old Kercher was found stabbed to death inside her bedroom.
The murder made international headlines and not long after, Knox and her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were named as the primary suspects in the killing.
The story had already attracted a great deal of media interest, but when that latest twist was reported, the world’s tabloids went into frenzied overdrive and Amanda Knox was where they focused most of their attention.
This is precisely why Amanda Knox is simply named after her. That name is now familiar to so many and imbued with a multitude of preconceptions, assumptions and terrible suspicions. As Knox herself says in a frank and emotional interview in the film, “There are those who believe my innocence and there are those who believe in my guilt. There’s no in between.”
Before she was even formally charged with the murder of Kercher, Knox took on a maleficent persona in the press. She quickly became known as a wicked she-devil who had murdered her housemate in a “sex game gone wrong”. Amanda Knox features an interview with British journalist Nick Pisa who did a lot of early reporting on the story. The very candid Pisa does a good job of relaying just how much lurid excitement the story generated. He has since attracted much criticism for his blunt account of events, but credit to him for giving an accurate portrayal of exactly how reporters at the time treated the case.
Also featured in the film is a series of revealing interviews with the Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini who led, what has subsequently been described as, “a deeply flawed” case against Knox and Sollecito.
It was Mignini who first developed the theory that Kercher had died at the hands of Knox in a fatal sex game. He was the one who passed the idea onto the press and, in fact, had a history of making similar accusations in other murder investigations.
It is this close interplay between the prosecution and the media that worked to blur the lines between fiction and reality and to heavily bias public opinion against Amanda Knox, who, along with Sollecito, was convicted, imprisoned and then later exonerated for the slaying of Meredith Kercher.
Amanda Knox does an excellent job of examining the prismatic nature of this story, by presenting and contrasting the perspectives of Knox as the accused and of those who accused her. Perhaps, most importantly of all, it forces us to confront any prejudices and fixed notions we may have had about a person who we think we know, but really do not.