A Semester Abroad (Documentary Review: “Amanda Knox”)


A compelling look back at the sensational murder case that stayed an international headline story for over 4 years, while the American college student at its center languished in an Italian prison for a crime she claims she never committed.

SnapShot Plot 

When Amanda Knox left home in 2007 to study abroad and learn Italian in Perugia, Italy, no one could have predicted that she wouldn’t return to her family and friends in Seattle for almost four years. Nor could anyone predict that this adventurous, high-spirited but ultimately naive girl would become one of the most notorious murder suspects in history, whose soccer nickname (and admittedly bizarre behaviour) would be used against her in a media feeding frenzy unmatched in recent years. This is the riveting Netflix documentary, Amanda Knox

The now familiar facts of the case are laid out as a chronological narrative with interviews woven in from Amanda herself, key journalists, and lawyers on both sides. They tell the story of Amanda’s early days in Perugia, her roommate Meredith Kercher (the murder victim), and Amanda’s budding romance with Italian, Raffaele Sollecito. When Meredith’s body was discovered, Amanda was brought in for questioning, and although she claims she spent the night at Sollecito’s apartment, investigators thought her behaviour odd and persisted with her interrogation. What follows is a bizarre trip down the legal rabbit hole for both Knox and Sollecito, with a protracted period of a conviction, appeal, retrial, reconviction and finally – in 2015 – an ultimate and definitive acquittal of them both by the Supreme Court of Italy.

As if the details of the murder weren’t grisly enough, the Lead Prosecutor in the case, Giuliano Mignini, himself became an outspoken player in the drama, concocting his own bizarre theories about ‘Foxy Knoxy’ (her moniker in the press) and Sollecito taking part in a Satanic sex plot gone bad. Mignini’s crusade against Knox clearly reflected a conservative Catholic resentment for the young American’s breezy sexuality and the odd behaviour which appeared to be incongruous with the seriousness of the situation. Before long, the international media jumped on the bandwagon, especially in the form of British tabloid writer, Nick Pisa to exploit an image of Amanda which helped to seal her fate. Of course it didn’t hurt that she was a lovely, youthful young woman who the cameras loved, and a tender moment caught on tape between her and Raffaele was further ‘proof’ that she must be guiltier than sin.



Parting Shot

In looking back at the Amanda Knox story from an American perspective, it’s almost impossible to imagine the case against her ever being made in the first place. But that wouldn’t give ‘justice’ to the very real differences in the legal and criminal systems between countries, even a country as historically friendly to Americans as Italy. To me, the case of Amanda Knox is a cautionary tale about the peril of misplaced stereotyping to the degree where the court of public opinion weighs more heavily on legal process and outcome than the court of law. And in the balance, a young life is sapped of it’s exuberance and optimism, as days turn into weeks and months and years. Yes, the story has a happy ending for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. But at what cost to their youthful vitality, their sense of optimism, their belief in a just world? No one can ever measure the cost to them or their families. And still, there are those who believe two killers got away with murder, and that too will haunt these two for the rest of their lives.

Amanda Knox is presently streaming on Netflix.

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YouTube trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRLt2xBpQbQ

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