Seattle resident Amanda Knox in a scene from the documentary “Amanda Knox.” (Netflix via AP)

Seattle resident Amanda Knox in a scene from the documentary “Amanda Knox.” (Netflix via AP)

A measured focus elevates ‘Amanda Knox’ documentary

By Kenneth Turan

Los Angeles Times

Did she or didn’t she? That is the question “Amanda Knox” explores with laser-like precision. Different viewers will come to different conclusions, but without doubt this strong documentary sheds a powerful light on this particular case while emphasizing the ultimate unknowability of absolute truth.

As directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, “Amanda Knox” does without a subtitle and frankly doesn’t need one. The case of the American college student twice convicted and twice acquitted of the murder of her roommate in Italy was such a tabloid and social-media sensation that a Google search reveals more than 7 million results.

That factoid comes from Knox herself, who is interviewed extensively here, as are her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, the tenacious Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini who put them both behind bars, and the British tabloid journalist Nick Pisa, who reported extensively on the case.

One of the great virtues of “Amanda Knox” is that it allows all these key participants, and a handful of others, the chance to unburden themselves at length about their roles in a story, equal parts Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith, that took eight years to play out.

Here, for instance, is Knox herself, articulate and self-possessed, thoughtfully summarizing her polarizing situation: “If I am guilty, I am the ultimate figure to fear. If I am innocent, it means everyone is vulnerable, and that’s everyone’s nightmare. Either I am a psychopath in sheep’s clothing or I am you.”

In addition to this wealth of interview material, directors Blackhurst and McGinn provide a large amount of court documents and archival footage, including a previously unseen video clip of the murder victim, 22-year-old Meredith Kercher, taken by Knox herself.

Just as disturbing is the visual evidence of the rabid way the case was covered by the media, with tabloid headlines screaming things like “Orgy of Death” and “Amanda the Man-Eater” on a daily basis.

TV newscasters were no better, with Diane Sawyer giving Knox an unapologetic hard time, and individuals such as CNN’s Chris Cuomo pounding her with questions like “Were you into deviant sex?”

Seen today, Knox, not surprisingly given what she has been through, is a serious and somber individual, living alone in Seattle and intending to work as an advocate for those wrongfully convicted.

In her pre-Italy years, however, video shows Knox to be much livelier, someone “quirky and ridiculous” who admired Xena the Warrior Princess. “I’m my own person,” is how she thought of herself, “but I’m going to find my place.”

A student at the University of Washington, Knox decided to become an exchange student in Perugia, Italy, to get out of her comfort zone and ended up rooming with young British student Kercher.

Just a week before the murder, Knox and young Italian student Sollecito meet and fall in love. Despite all that has happened to them since, both light up at the memory of how happy they were for that week, spending every free minute in each other’s company.

Then Kercher (inevitably something of a cipher here) is murdered, and two new people become key in everyone’s lives. These include journalist Pisa, someone who delights in the buzz of the scoop and is perfectly happy to spread the most salacious stories and theories, and prosecutor Mignini.

Knox partisans looking for a convenient villain will not find one in Mignini, who comes off as decent and sincere, a fan of Sherlock Holmes who has a passion for investigating and connecting clues.

But what is also true of Mignini is that he is a practicing Catholic who believes “God runs the world but man has free will,” the father of four girls and a pillar of Perugia’s traditional society.

As such, you can feel in these interviews Mignini’s almost visceral dislike of and even antipathy toward Knox personally — he describes her at one point as “inexplicable, irrational” — and the world of youthful sexual license she seemed to represent.

Mignini and the Perugia police evolve the theory, spread by Pisa and others, that Kercher was killed in a drug-fueled sex game gone wrong and arrest Knox, Sollecito and a third man, Patrick Lumumba, in the crime.

Though both Knox and Sollecito initially protested that they’d been together all night in his apartment, under intense police questioning they temporarily changed their stories. Hearing both of them talk about the almost surreal pressure put on them inevitably brings to mind the coerced confessions that figure in Ken Burns’ “The Central Park Five” documentary.

It is all so complicated that it took directors Blackhurst and McGinn and editor Matthew Hamachek a full year to fit all their material into the hour and a half on view here, but it was worth the effort. Hard as it is to say that anything is the last word in this most divisive of cases, “Amanda Knox” looks to be it.

Talk to us

More in Life

Darlene Love, Steven Van Zandt and Paul Shaffer  performed in concert at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park on Sept. 12, 2015.
Pandemic’s not stopping Christmas Queen Darlene Love

The singer best known for “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” will perform her annual holiday concert online this year.

A gardener’s to-do list for winterizing the yard — Part 2

Try to accomplish most of these chores, but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get them all done.

Caleb Sanders and Ashley Dougherty help decorate for the Trees of Christmas event at the Everett Bible Baptist Church. (Maria Lara)
Church keeps Christmas tradition alive with drive-thru event

Everett Bible Baptist Church hosts Trees of Christmas, with music, narration and special treats for the family.

Mexican sedum is an excellent groundcover plant, forming a dense carpet of glossy chartreuse leaves. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: Sedum kimnachii aka Mexican sedum

An excellent groundcover plant, this variety forms a flat, dense carpet of glossy chartreuse leaves.

Make holidays brighter with energy saving tips and gifts

Snohomish County PUD shares five smart ways to find joy in the season that use less electricity.

John Spadam owner, at Spada Farmhouse Brewery in Snohomish. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Spada ready to show off new bar and restaurant in Snohomish

During the pandemic, the Spada family has been busy renovating an old building on First Street.

Precept Wine, the largest privately-owned wine company in Washington, recruited Seattle native Sarah Cabot to take over its pinot noir production in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in 2014. (Precept Wine)
Six examples of award-winning pinot noir in the Northwest

The Willamette Valley of Oregon has a reputation for the red wine, but there are other success stories in the area.

To deposit a coin in the Bonzo bank, you had to push his tummy. His tongue would come out of his mouth to deposit the coin inside. Many similar banks were made picturing other comic characters. (Cowles Syndicate Inc.)
Mechanical bank of the first famous Bonzo sells for $1,800

The dog decorating the front of the tin bank was a comic cartoon star from the 1920s to the 1940s.

Design elements of the M235i Gran Coupe include angled headlights, four-eyed halo daytime running lights, and BMW’s traditional kidney grille. (Manufacturer photo)
BMW’s compact 2 Series Gran Coupe is all new to the 2020 lineup

A turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive, and 8-speed automatic transmission are standard on both versions.

Most Read