The Witness

Dir: James D. Solomon, 2015


In 1964 America, a young woman named Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was brutally murdered by Winston Moseley in the early hours of the morning on March 13.

Despite her cries for help, neighbours failed to do anything. Around 37 or 38 witnesses either saw or heard the attack and didn’t come to her aid.

Or so the story goes.

The New York Times published an article reporting the neighbours lack of assistance and the story was born.

Kitty’s brother, William, looks into the truth of the incident and whether the neighbours really did ignore the crime.

This had all the potential to be a brilliant insight into a terrible murder that has kept people talking for fifty years.

However, the documentary is more about William. He talks about himself, his experiences and the murder just, kind of, sits in the background.

It’s expected that William harbours feelings of sadness and anger after an event like that. They will never leave him.

But it focuses too much on him rather than the crone or the witnesses; the witnesses of the title.

A separate documentary talking about his feelings and how it has affected him would be better.

As it is, The Witness feels, somewhat, hijacked. You can’t shake the thought that William is exploiting this awful, awful tragedy to give himself some exposure.

Setting the record straight does give a some sense of closure. Contrary to the initial reports, Kitty wasn’t ignored the night she died and she wasn’t alone.

People did try to help her.

The documentary does have flashes of what could have been. William goes back to the neighbourhood and the spot where she died. Residents at the time and the relatives of those who have passed on, all speak in depth about that night.

If there was more focus on this, you would have an excellent crime documentary.

By all accounts, Kitty Genovese was a well liked and respected young woman, so the film feels like a smack in the face to her. She certainly deserves more than this offers.

A missed opportunity.


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