Late in Amanda Knox, a new documentary by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn that premieres this week on Netflix, the woman who’s at the center of the film asks a question. “What’s more likely,” she says, “that I get together this boyfriend who I’ve had for five days, and this guy [who] I don’t even know his name, tell them to rape my roommate and then I stab her to death? Or that a guy who regularly committed burglaries broke into my home, found Meredith, took advantage of her, killed her, and ran off?”
It’s a straightforward enough inquiry, but it’s one that somehow escaped the prosecutors, the tabloids, and the general public in 2007, when Knox was arrested for the murder of the British student Meredith Kercher in the Italian city of Perugia. Over the next four years, while Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were convicted twice and then acquitted twice, the dominant media narrative was that Knox was a sex-crazed freak who used her wiles to persuade two men to kill her innocent English roommate in a deviant orgy gone wrong. Few thought to ask what her motive might have been, or how probable it was that a goofy college student might also be a psychopathic murderer.
Amanda Knox joins a number of recent true-crime documentaries and fictionalized retellings that have revisited splashy crimes from the past 25 years, but its focus isn’t on who killed Kercher. Rather, the movie considers how a 20-year-old linguistics major could have become the focus of such a frenzied and hysterical witch hunt, not to mention one of the most notorious murder suspects of the 21st century. If this particular focus has a flaw, it’s that it sidelines Kercher, who’s little more than a image throughout the movie. But as an indictment of a number of institutions than failed dismally in their mission to uncover the truth about who killed her, Amanda Knox is sharp, and frequently enraging.