The Witness Film Review

Kitty Genovese, the symbol of urban apathy, who was reportedly murdered in front of 38 witnesses – and none helped. Courtesy of The Witnesses Film, LLC.

Kitty Genovese, the symbol of urban apathy, who was reportedly murdered in front of 38 witnesses – and none helped. Courtesy of The Witnesses Film, LLC.

SYNOPSIS: Fifty years ago, the name “Kitty Genovese” became synonymous with urban apathy after 38 eyewitnesses did nothing while an attacker stabbed her to death on a street in New York City.

“For more than half an hour,” The New York Timesreport began, “38 respectable, law-abiding citizens…watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks.”

Forty years later, her brother Bill, who was 16 at the time of his sister’s death, decides to re-examine the details of the crime.

THE WITNESS is a probing and deeply personal investigation into one of the most iconic crimes in New York history, featuring interviews with those closest to the murder including the surviving witnesses to Kitty’s death.  It offers an illuminating look into the way stories take form and their rippling effects on the lives they touch. [Source: THE WITNESS, LLC]

James Solomon’s directorial debutThe Witness, is a compelling documentary eleven years in the making.  The film focuses on the journey of Bill Genovese as he attempts to uncover the details of the murder of his older sister, the victim of one of the most notorious murder cases in American history. While the details of the case are explored in the depth, the film is ultimately about Bill’s struggle to find closure and come to terms with the loss of the sister he still holds so dear. Watching that journey unfold is a touching and powerful experience.

Some may assume that the film’s topic itself is trivial. After all, how many really care about a murder case that happened several decades ago? However, the film reveals that the facts of the case are still very significant today. The case is surrounded by sensationalistic and downright salacious journalism, an issue that remains relevant to the modern day. In addition to Bill’s struggle to gain closure, the film sheds new light on the details of the case that few are aware of and remind us of current issues of journalistic integrity.

Technically, The Witness is well produced as well. Pencil animations made by Moth Collectiveserve as segues and help to illustrate events that couldn’t be filmed. The animations are quite charming and add plenty of personality to the film.

Overall, The Witness is a solidly constructed documentary. Anyone with an interest in crime documentaries, such as Making A Murderer or the OJ Simpson murder trial, or old enough to remember the Kitty Genovese case should absolutely see it. The film also explores the dangers of irresponsible journalism and the desire for closure. The Witness is as compelling as it is somber.

Running Time: 89 minutes Distributed by FilmRise.  In select NYC theaters June 3, 2016. US nationwide release on June 17, 2016.

For more information and additional release dates, please visit The Witness Official Website.

View The Witness Theatrical Trailer below: