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Michael Winterbottom’s new film The Face of an Angel, loosely based on Barbie Latza Nadeau’s book on the Amanda Knox case, Angel Face, is drawing fire from Candace Dempsey, whose competing book Murder in Italy is far more sympathetic to Knox. Reacting to the movie’s trailer, unveiled this week at Berlin’s European Film Market, Dempsey calls the film “an invasion of Amanda’s life.”
Knox’s 2009 conviction for the 2007 murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy, was reversed in 2011, when she returned to Seattle. Another Italian court upheld her conviction on Jan. 30, 2014. “It hit me like a train,” said Knox in Seattle, vowing to appeal the decision.
The film focuses on a journalist (Kate Beckinsale) and a filmmaker (Daniel Bruhl) covering the trial, with Cara Delevingne as his love interest. Knox’s and Kercher’s character names have been changed, and the publicity omits the names of the actresses playing them.
Winterbottom told THR, “We are certainly not going to be saying ’This person is innocent, or that person is guilty.’ But we will be asking, ‘Is this system of justice fair?'” The trailer begins with the words, “A Journey Beyond the Truth.”
“I’m shocked that BBC Films would help fund a movie so prejudicial,” Dempsey tells THR.”“So much for fairness and neutrality. They are running a salacious trailer, complete with sex on the train — which, if it happened, was before the murder.
“Winterbottom wants to have it both ways,” says Dempsey. “The film’s not about Amanda, but it is about Amanda. It’s not about guilt or innocence, but it makes Amanda look at guilty as possible.”
In the trailer, one character says, “She had sex with some random guy she met on a train,” and Bruhl’s character replies, “None of that makes her a killer.”
But Dempsey notes that 22 seconds into the trailer, after a gory murder scene, the Knox-inspired character flashes a lurid, deranged look as a character (apparently the prosecutor) calls her “sexual, dominant.” Says Dempsey, “Tell me this actress isn’t trying to look crazy, or that Winterbottom isn’t doing a Fatal Attraction on Amanda. He couldn’t have picked a nastier pic. The trailer is like a bad Saturday Night Live skit. Clueless Yanks, exceptional Brits, phony Italian accents, slut shaming, pervy shots of young girls, whore/Madonna framing and salacious gossip dressed up as fact. The Lolita-faced ‘Amanda’ looks guilty in every frame. At 20, she ‘dominates’ in bed. The British victim, who was also sexually active, is shown as ‘quiet,’ nun-like. Amanda was actually a U.S. honor student but she dared to like sex. And we all know that sex is a gateway crime to murder.”
“I’m a fan of Winterbottom’s films, especially A Mighty Heart,” Dempsey says, “but if he didn’t think Amanda was guilty, then what was his fascination with Angel Face: The True Story of a Student Killer?” After the 2011 reversal of Knox’s conviction, Nadeau’s book got a new subtitle, Sex, Murder and the Inside Story of Amanda Knox.
“Why would Winterbottom dress two young actors in Amanda and [her also-convicted then-boyfriend) Raffaele Sollecito’s exact clothes,” asks Dempsey, “and have them lurk around the murder house, looking grim and suspicious?”
Winterbottom told The Independent, “The closest any of the main characters in the film are to the real case is the journalist covering the story.”
“It is hilarious to see reporters who made money on ‘Foxy Knoxy’ — the caricature they created — be recast as heroic truth-seekers horrified by the media circus and focused on the victim –if only,” says Dempsey. “Not only were the colpevolisti (pro-guilt) journalists obsessed with Amanda and her family, but too often they typed up whatever nasty rumors police and prosecutors were putting out. Even the Times of London sometimes did that. Meanwhile, the bullying prosecutor Giuliano Mignini sued countless reporters for criticizing him. Those reporters are the true heroes.”
One reporter Mignini lashed out at is Douglas Preston, author of the 2013 Knox book Trial By Fury, who also wrote The Monster of Florence, about an unsolved serial killing that inspired the book and film Hannibal. George Clooney has been attached to film rights for Preston’s story.
“Mignini, the chief prosecutor in the Amanda Knox case, was also the prosecutor in the Monster case,” writes Preston, who earned Mignini’s wrath by dissenting from Mignini’s belief that the Florence murders were done by an ancient sex cult – similar to the motive he ascribed to Amanda Knox. “He is quick to suspect Satanism,” writes Nadeau.
“[Mignini] then did to me what he would do to Amanda a year later,” writes Preston. “He hauled me in for an interrogation with no attorney or interpreter present, accused me of being an accessory to murder, among other heinous crimes, and demanded I confess. He threw Mario Spezi [Preston’s coauthor] into prison and accused him of being the Monster of Florence. (Later the charges against us were dropped and Mignini was investigated for abuse of office.)”
“The Italian Supreme Court backed off the Satanic sex game theory as Amanda Knox’s motive for murder,” says Dempsey, “and now they’ve got a comical new motive: that an unflushed toilet caused the crime.” The new theory is that arguments over bathroom hygiene provoked a fatal dispute. “If women killed over unflushed toilets, do you know how many dead husbands there would be?” asks Dempsey.
“You have to remember, this is the same court that said a woman couldn’t be raped because her jeans were too tight,” says Dempsey. In 1999, Rome’s Supreme Court of Appeals overturned a rape case, noting that ”jeans cannot be removed easily and certainly it is impossible to pull them off if the victim is fighting against her attacker with all her force.”
“Some people find it hard to accept that two completely innocent people could linger for so long under a cloud of suspicion, or that the criminal-justice system of a civilized European country could manufacture guilt out of thin air,” writes Preston in The Forgotten Killer: Rudy Guede, published on Jan. 27, which details the case that Guede, also convicted of Kercher’s killing, was the sole killer. Guede, who cooperated with authorities, could be out of jail this year, while Knox’s and Sollecito’s cases may drag on for years.
Preston’s book quotes Guede in a 2007 Skype call he says was monitored by Perugian police: “Amanda has nothing to do with it… She wasn’t there.”
Dempsey says her book’s option by Sony, which would have paid in the low six figures, has lapsed, but the book is in its third printing.
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