The Controversy behind the Amanda Knox Movie
By Maria Cheung
Reviewed by Jennifer Williams
Amanda Knox’s family is suing to have Lifetime’s Amanda Knox: Trial in Italy pulled off the air. Lifetime originally aired the movie, starring Hayden Panettiere as Amanda, in February. The film depicts Knox traveling to Italy for a semester abroad, meeting her roommates including Meredith Kercher, the British student she was accused of murdering, and falling in love with her co-defendant Raffaele Sollecito. It also features Kercher’s death and the events surrounding it, although the film does not show the actual murder.
The film, which in my opinion is as unbiased as it can possibly be, shows Amanda and Raffaele’s strange reaction to the murder and subsequent arrest and trial for the murder of their former acquaintance. The film shows how the Italian prosecutors had very little credible evidence against Amanda and Raffaele. It also documents how cruel the Italian system treated Amanda at times. One particular disturbing but factual scene is when the prison doctors told her she had HIV and needed to give them a list of her lovers just so the prosecutors could give the list to the press and portray her as a guilty “Lolita”.
Shortly after the film’s premiere, Knox and her family sued Lifetime alleging that the movie exploited her story and contained several implausible scenes. Knox’s father believes the Lifetime film, which according to him depicts his daughter as a violent murderer, is a complete fabrication and possibly libelous since his daughter was cleared of all charges.
Lifetime has yet to pull the film but has recently edited the end of the movie to incorporate Amanda’s not-guilty verdict just before the credits. The movie now concludes with an acknowledgement that Amanda was freed after serving four years in an Italian prison due to overwhelming doubts about the legitimacy of the DNA evidence originally used to convict her. After Amanda’s not-guilty verdict was announced, Lifetime re-aired the edited film repeatedly throughout that week.
Upon hearing that Lifetime was making a movie about her ordeal, Amanda reportedly had a panic attack in prison. ”I’m devastated by this invasion into my life and the way I’m being exploited,” Knox has said. ”I consider it the pinnacle of the repeated violations by the media against my person, my personality and my (life) story.”
Although Amanda probably does have some legitimate legal claims such as libel, right of publicity and defamation, since the film based its plot on pure facts, I do not think she will succeed in her lawsuit. Lifetime has a strong first amendment defense. Furthermore, the film did not hinder Amanda in any way, which is usually needed for a person to invoke a right of publicity claim, although it does differ by state. It may have actually helped her by bringing more attention and publicity to her case and the lack of credible evidence against her. The American media has been instrumental in getting Amanda’s case overturned. It has criticized the Italian government’s handling of the case and portrayed Amanda as a helpless and naïve college student who went abroad for a semester and found herself in an Italian prison for four years. The Lifetime movie, especially, may have attracted viewers who knew little about Amanda and after viewing the film, took interest in her case and wanted to know more about what really happened that night. It is understandable for Amanda and her family to be upset by the film but if they viewed the situation objectively, perhaps they would see that the film probably helped them more than it harmed them.