FilmRise Nabs Infamous Murder Case Doc 'The Witness' (Exclusive)

The Witness Still - H 2015
Courtesy of New York Film Festival

The film chronicles the story of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death on a New York City street while 38 witnesses did nothing.

FilmRise has acquired exclusive worldwide rights to the crime documentary The Witness. The film chronicles the story behind one of America’s most infamous murder cases.

In screenwriter James Solomon’s decade-in-the-making directorial debut, The Witness explores the death of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese, a young woman whose name became a symbol of urban apathy after she was stabbed to death more than 50 years ago on a New York City street, while 38 witnesses did nothing.

The film follows the efforts of her brother, Bill, as he looks to uncover the truth buried beneath the story. In the process, he makes new discoveries about the crime that transformed his life, condemned a city and defined an era.

The New York-based art house distributor will give the film a theatrical release this spring.

Following The Witness’ world premiere at the New York Film Festival in 2015, The Hollywood Reporter’s review called it a “gut-wrenching doc [that] is as deeply moving as it is enlightening … few films feel as cathartic.” Solomon, who also produced the film, is best known for writing Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, starring James McAvoy and Robin Wright, and the acclaimed eight-hour miniseries The Bronx Is Burning.

The Witness captivates its viewer as it searches to uncover the truth surrounding a notorious crime,” said FilmRise CEO Danny Fisher. “We are honored to be bringing this extraordinary film to theaters and homes in 2016.”

Added Solomon: “This film is not only an unraveling of what really happened that fateful night, but also about a brother’s relentless quest to reclaim his sister Kitty’s life from her death.”

Earlier this month, FilmRise acquired North American rights to the Star Wars documentary Elstree 1976. Other recent acquisitions include the French romantic comedy LoloSteve McQueen: The Man & Le MansMonster Hunt (the highest-grossing film in China’s box-office history) and Alex Gibney's Scientology exposé Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. The company's TV titles include Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously.

Submarine Ben Braun represented the filmmakers on The Witness deal. Fisher and Max Einhorn negotiated on behalf of FilmRise.