TIFF Review: ‘Amanda Knox’

TIFF 2016

6 mins read

Amanda Knox
(USA/Denmark, 92 min.)
Dir. Brian McGinn, Rod Blackhurst; Writ. Brian McGinn, Matthew Hamachek
Programme: TIFF Docs (World Premiere)


The case of Amanda Knox, or “Foxy Knoxy” as the tabloids love to call her, is absolutely compelling. Amanda Knox chronicles the bizarre 2007 episode in which the then-20-year-old Seattle native and her boyfriend of five days were accused and convicted of brutally murdering her roommate Meredith Kercher in the home they shared in Perugia, Italy. Knox gives her side of the story in this engaging and dynamic doc from Brian McGinn and Rod Blackhurst, which allows one to perceive her as a stone cold psychopath one minute and then as a sympathetic victim the next. Her trials and convictions were created in headlines and hyperbole. Amanda Knox is the latest true crime doc from Netflix and if there’s ever going to be a 90-minute feature about the “making” of a murderer, this is it.

The construction of Knox as Kercher’s killer begins fairly enough as Perguian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini explains the situation with gusto: a young woman is discovered in her bedroom with her throat slit and signs of sexual violence. As the police scour the scene, the victim’s roommate, rather than grieving in pain, makes out with her boyfriend in the yard. Amanda Knox’s behaviour isn’t normal, therefore the police conclude that she is Kercher’s killer and that the motive is some sordid sex game she played with her new boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito. The press, naturally, fuels perceptions of Knox’s guilt with details and photos that become more salacious by the scoop.

The hallmarks of a psychopath include a lack of remorse or empathy but Knox displays neither trait as the investigation unfolds. Nor does she appear to express anything beyond self-pity—although the initial present-day interviews with Knox echo some of the behaviour that Mignini describes from the case. She can appear to be distant, cold, and aloof. Something about this girl seems off.

Knox also gives the air of performing for the camera. She really wants to convince the viewer that she isn’t an entitled American tourist who enjoys kinky sex. As Knox makes her case that she is not the one who butchered her comparatively more conservative friend, she reeks of desperation.

However, who wouldn’t put on as convincing an act as possible to escape a murder charge? After all, the doc shows how media sensationalism fueled the case against the 20-year-old American. Naughty headlines and sweaty details hang her in the court of public opinion.

Thanks to nimble-fingered editing by Matthew Hamachek, Amanda Knox chillingly shows how easily media spin and mob mentalities influence one’s perception. With the sheer volume of material asserting Knox’s guilt that the directors present, it’s hard to form any opinion of the accused other than that she is a killer. It’s incredible how easily credible outlets can dupe the masses with a hot scoop.

Just when media sensationalism makes the case against Foxy Knoxy an easy call, the story changes. Another suspect is apprehended and he is a quite credible candidate for having committed the murder. He’s even convicted of being part of the crime but by that point, the prosecution in Perugia and the media are so convinced of Knox’s complicity in the murder that she and her boyfriend are still placed on trial and initially found to be guilty.

Amanda Knox turns the tables on the supposed ‘guilty’ parties to reveal the deception and negligence of the media and prosecutors that allowed the case to fly out of control. The film puts click-bait journalism on trial as poor fact-checking and hasty headlines ruin the lives of Knox and Sollecito, her boyfriend. It’s a riveting parable about the threat to personal security in the Internet age as nobody is safe from the anonymous mob. What is scariest—and perhaps most telling—about the doc, however, is that even after the court clear Amanda Knox’s name, one leaves the film uncertain of her innocence thanks to the overwhelming mob-mentality that consumes one during the riveting ordeal.

Amanda Knox screens:
-Friday, Sept. 16 at 9:15 PM at Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema

TIFF runs Sept. 8 – 18. Please visit tiff.net for more information.

Amanda Knox streams on Netlfix beginning Sept. 30.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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