The documentary The Witness is about to hit theaters after some time in the festival circuit, and distributor FilmRise has just shared the first trailer with us. The film digs into the Kitty Genovese case, with a focus on whether or not there were actually 30-something witnesses who watched and/or heard the 28-year-old's murder and did not try to help her.
The media put a spotlight on these alleged witnesses—all neighbors of Genovese in Kew Gardens, Queens—in the weeks following the 1964 crime, with papers perpetuating the idea that there was a bystander effect, and the NY Times publishing an investigative report that asserted there were 37 eyewitnesses who saw the attacks (the first occurring near the train station, and the second by her apartment building) and did nothing.
Just this year, 52 years after the crime and these original reports, the NY Times issued a bit of a correction when her killer died in prison:
While there was no question that the attack occurred, and that some neighbors ignored cries for help, the portrayal of 38 witnesses as fully aware and unresponsive was erroneous. The article grossly exaggerated the number of witnesses and what they had perceived. None saw the attack in its entirety. Only a few had glimpsed parts of it, or recognized the cries for help. Many thought they had heard lovers or drunks quarreling. There were two attacks, not three. And afterward, two people did call the police. A 70-year-old woman ventured out and cradled the dying victim in her arms until they arrived.
follows the efforts of Genovese's brother, Bill as he looks to uncover the truth about what really happened that night, even revisiting the scene of the crime. The New Yorker called his research "extraordinary... [he consulted] the trial transcripts and police records, as well as meta-journalistic research that involves reporters, editors, and producers involved with the creation and transmission of the original accounts of the events, as well as with later efforts to deepen or revise that story."
As narrator, Bill explains, “My sister has been the symbol of bystander apathy for decades,” but throughout this process "he makes astonishing discoveries about the crime that transformed his life, condemned a city, and defined an era."
The film, directed by James Solomon, opens on June 3rd in NYC, at the IFC Center, and will then expand to Los Angeles and other cities beginning on June 17th.