On the morning of November 2, 2007, the partially naked and brutally stabbed body of a 21-year-old British student named Meredith Kercher was found in a house she shared with other students in the university town of Perugia, Italy. A few days after her death, the police arrested Amanda Knox, a 20-year-old American student who lived with Kercher, as well as an Italian man Knox met the week before and was dating, Raffaele Sollecito.
In 2009, the two were found guilty of participating in a murder with a third person, Rudy Guede. Knox and Sollecito received long sentences and the case appeared to be closed for good. But in 2011, the initial judgment against Knox and Sollecito was overturned on appeal, and Knox took the first plane out of the country and soon landed in her hometown, Seattle. But this was not yet the end of the case. In 2014, another court made the two guilty again. At this point, many wondered if Italy had a court system or a legal maze designed by a demon. On March 27, 2015, Knox’s and Sollecito’s exit from the Kercher case appeared in the form of a final judgment by Italy’s highest criminal court: They were not guilty and that was forever to be that.
Nine years later, Netfix released a very moody (and I might add, very Zoo-like) documentary called Amanda Knox. Directed by Brian McGinn and Rod Blackhurst, two young and green directors, it features interviews with Knox, Sollecito, Giuliano Mignini (the first prosecutor of the case), and a soulless British journalist, Nick Pisa. Knox, as expected, claims she did not kill Kercher and explains why she changed her story so often in the early days of the investigation. She also explains why she fingered an innocent man, Diya “Patrick” Lumumba, for the crime. (It basically comes down to the Italian police performing something like Jedi mind tricks on her). Altogether, Knox doesn’t say anything we haven’t heard before: she is not a killer, she was at Sollecito’s place watching Amélie, smoking pot, and having sex when the murder happened, and the reason she made confused statements at the police station is because her interrogators were mean, loud, threatening, and very physical.
As for Sollecito, he says almost nothing of any value in the entire documentary. Indeed, he gives the impression that the only thing he is capable of doing with any success is sunbathing on a Mediterranean beach. Guiliano Mignini, the prosecutor, is made to look very stern, very somber, and a bit mystical (he is a religious man, he has unscientific ideas about the habits of female murderers) as he provides some of the reasons why he was certain of Knox’s and Sollecito’s guilt. The real baddie of the documentary turns out to be the British journalist Nick Pisa, who says that getting a scoop on a story and seeing his name on the front pages of major newspapers is like having sex. Yes, he says this and means it.
The documentary has its cinematic moments, such as the opening slow-motion sequence of Knox driving around dusky Seattle, preparing food in her humble kitchen as she drinks red wine, and generally enjoying the security of her American freedoms. Or, later in the documentary, when we see Pisa standing on the balcony of a Perugia hotel room that has a stunning view of the old Italian town, which, at that moment, is entering night. Another shot finds the light of dawn falling on the scene of the crime, the house now haunted by the ghost Meredith Kercher.
Knox might be free but she is not entirely happy. She knows that many in the world still think she is guilty, still think she got away with murder. But she feels she knows why these people refuse to believe in her innocence. They want a monster. They want to believe that there is just good and evil in the world, and not a mixture of the two. “If I’m guilty," she says with big and serious eyes, "it means that I’m the ultimate figure to fear because I’m not the obvious one. But, on the other hand, if I’m innocent, it means everyone is vulnerable, and that is everyone’s nightmare. I’m either a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or I’m you.”
What is certain is that the documentary is not interested in the people of color involved in the case. Indeed, Meredith Kercher, who was not white, but Indian and white European, is basically reduced to a dead foot sticking out of a duvet. There is not a single word on the fate of Lumumba, whose life was financially and emotionally turned upside down by Knox’s fingering. As for Rudy Guede, the British journalist Pisa gets the final word on him: He is worthless because his story isn’t juicy. He is just another black man who committed a crime, another black man who can’t keep his dick in his pants, another black man behind bars. Now where is the story in that? But a white, blond, and young American woman who, while exploring her sexuality in a dreamy Italian town, gets wrapped up in a murder that looks like a sex game gone wrong—that story is going to put some wings on the newspapers.
The documentary does interview Guede’s lawyer, but if he had anything important to say, it certainly did not reach the final edit of the film. Knox, of course, coldly dismisses Guede as a thug, though he didn’t have a criminal record—yes, none. Nor, before Kercher, was he ever accused of, let alone charged with, a sex crime. Sadly, the only person who can decisively say if she was or was not sexually assaulted by Guede is dead. Also, it is understood that more than one person was involved in the murder, and yet only one person is paying for the crime. “You know, when we realized that the third person in the case was not Patrick Lumumba,” Guiliano Mignini said to me when I visited Perugia in 2013, “and that it was another African name Rudy Guede, everyone told us to drop the case against Knox. This was here in Italy. People were telling me to let her and Raffaele go and just to focus on the African guy. That’s interesting, isn’t it?” Clearly not interesting enough for this documentary, which instead has Miginini speculating about a divine court in the sky that will one day judge Knox once and for all. “Life ends with a final trial,” he says, while being shown staring at candles in a grand and ancient cathedral, “a trial with no appeals.”