ATLFF 2016: The Witness

The Witness

Running Time: 
89 minutes

The name Kitty Genovese might not sound familiar at first, but her story is one most people would recognize. Her 1964 murder in New York City is seen as the go-to example of the bystander effect as 38 alleged witnesses to her death did nothing. The Witness is a documentary by her brother, William, in which he tries to get some closure to this dark chapter of his family’s life.


The film starts out with William wanting to track down and speak with the witnesses who were in the apartment building across from where Kitty was stabbed. He wants to get a better understanding of what happened that night and why apparently nobody did anything to help. As he begins to find some of these people and fill in the missing pieces, the film soon evolves into something much more. He ends up learning that everything the media printed in the papers and said on television wasn’t exactly true and that there were a lot of exaggerations. He also learns more about his sister and who she was as a person before her untimely death. The tension culminates when he even converses with Kitty’s murderer through prison letters, and while they don’t have a face-to-face talk, William does manage to have an interesting interview with his son. Kitty’s murder, however, is only the start as the documentary ventures down multiple paths of intrigue.


The Witness is a fascinating documentary that explores the hidden truths within a subject we’ve all heard so much about. I first learned in school about the Kitty Genovese murder and its implications and that was it. There are so many twists and turns in the story, and the documentary captivates you as it explores each dark alley, blindly not know what possible answers lie in the shadows.


To see this side of her story told through her brother is eye-opening. t’s much about him as it is about her murder. You can see the heartbreak it has caused him and his entire family as he struggles for closure. It’s a closure you’re not quite sure ever comes. The Witness is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen this year so far. It’s a fascinating glimpse into a personal tragedy that garnered national attention yet still presents new information.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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