Filmmakers Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn can’t remember the exact moment when they decided to do a documentary about Amanda Knox, but it was sometime around 2011.
At that point, it was about four years after British college student Meredith Kercher was killed in an Italian villa she shared with her American roommate Knox. It was a four-year-old story that was still making front page news.
“For us that was just a confusing thing. We couldn’t understand how coverage had stayed this popular for something that was at its heart a tragedy,” McGinn told CNN. “Terrible murders like this disappear from the news after a cycle or two, but this was something that really hung around.”
The reason, he said, is that the case had — over the course of the long and winding proceedings — become personal. The lives of the victim and the accused had been exposed, their online identities woven into narratives and coverage of the case had largely strayed from facts of the crime. Instead, key figures were turned into “accidentally celebrities.”
Much like how the O.J. Simpson case is seen as one of the first instances of “trial as entertainment,” Knox’s legal proceedings were the first instance of a trial becoming a “social media extravaganza,” McGinn said.
“It had gotten so far away from the bare essentials of the story,” McGinn said. “We thought there was something interesting there that not only we could explore from a first person perspective, but also examine the larger phenomenon of these stories in our society.”
Amanda Knox initially turned down their offer to speak for the documentary. For a moment, they thought their film hopes were dashed. They had only wanted to tell a first-person narrative.
But after her second conviction in 2014, Knox changed her mind. (In the film, available on Netflix starting Friday, there is footage of Knox celebrating her exoneration in 2015.)
“After that, that sort of opened the flood gates a little bit,” McGinn said.
Knox, her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini and journalist Nick Pisa, who covered the story for The Daily Mail, are among those interviewed.
Everyone featured in the documentary got to see it before the public. After having their stories controlled by the media for so long, Blackhurst said, “it was important for each of them to know that the version of them in this film was in their own words and representative of who they were as people.”
They believe their mission was accomplished.
They were also pleased to see their subjects respond to the stories of the other people featured. Knox, for example, hadn’t known that Mignini — a man she knew as an adversary — had four daughters.
“[The interviewees] were all marked at how they learned something about the other people involved in this story that they [didn’t know]. They hadn’t maybe considered them as human beings before,” Blackhurst said. “They saw [each other] as a character in the same way they all became characters in the larger narrative.
Blackhurst said they hope the film clears the air for the subjects but also makes viewers “consider the role that they play in the commodification of tragedy.”
“We want people to consider how they consume these types of stories and how they turn these real people and real situations into entertainment,” he said.
CNNMoney (Los Angeles) First published September 30, 2016: 3:56 PM ET