Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Witness: A documentary about Kitty Genovese (2015)

The Witness is a fascinating story.  It tells a story that has haunted America for half a century.  Kitty is the woman who was murdered in New York in 1964, reportedly as 64 people heard her screams and watched the murder but did nothing.  She has been the study of sociology books, what motivates us to act?  The brother of Kitty, who was 16 at the time of her murder, tells the family story and takes another look at the report behind this case.
The brother found out that the report of 38 witnesses was rather arbitrary.  Police however did interview 38 people.  Some heard a scream, some heard a scream and got up (it was 3 in the morning), looked out the window, didn't see or hear anything more, and went back to bed.  One man yelled down to  the perpetrator, get out of here, and he fled.  Initially Kitty was stabbed twice.  She had dropped to her knees, and struggled to her feet.  She then went around the corner and into a stairwell of her apartment.  The people then could not see her.  The perpetrator returned, and attacked her again.  He raped her and stabbed her more times.  She screamed, and on of her neighbors came to her aid after the deed had been done, when she realized what was happening.  Kitty, although mortally wounded, did not die alone, but in the arms of a friend.  In many regards the story is different than reported.  In fact, some of the witnesses said they called police.  However, the police did not respond.  They thought it was the  result of bar room shenanigans as there was a bar close by.  Even her  roommate (lover) was not awoken by the screams, and didn't know anything until the police woke her up.  She was called upon to identify the body.  This movie shows this story from many more angles that what had been represented, and the subject of many books and articles.  It is a story about mass media failure.  Many witnesses felt they were misquoted, and so stopped talking to the media.  There was not a 9-11 system at the time, and the few who called were not taken seriously.  there was only one recorded call from the night.  
One of the things this movie presents is the effect the murder had on people; the effect on the two families.  The genovese family was really torn, and coped by not talking about Kitty.  Bill, who is the narrator and teller of the story, joined the Marines, served in Viet Nam and there lost his legs.  Other siblings had their own struggles to put the events behind them.  Bill even interviewed the murderer's son, and then the effect on his family, wife and two children, was manifested.
Very good film which combats many misconceptions I had of these events.  They have an actress act out the screams, which was very eerie and brought the night home.

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