The Witness

2015

Biography / Crime / Documentary / Mystery

11
IMDb Rating 7.1 10 2974

Synopsis


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Cast

720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
757.06 MB
1280*714
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 29 min
P/S 3 / 25
1.43 GB
1920*1072
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 29 min
P/S 5 / 23

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by David Ferguson 8 / 10

Brother Bill confronts the past

Greetings again from the darkness. Remember that time you told yourself "I don't want to get involved"? We live in an era when the phrase "If you see something, say something" is more catchphrase than active philosophy, and it's pretty easy to justify looking the other way by thinking "It's none of my business." In 1964, twenty-eight year old Kitty Genovese was brutally attacked and murdered in Queens. The New York Times reported that the same man attacked her three times, and that no one called the police, despite her screams and 38 people witnessing the attacks over a half hour. Her story became the symbol for "bystander apathy" and led to development of the 911 system and the "Good Samaritan Law".

Forty years after the attack, the New York Times examined their original story, and it's that piece that brought together filmmaker James D Soloman (he wrote the screenplay for The Conspirator) and Kitty's brother Bill. Their goal was to research the horrible events of that night and determine once and for all if the legendary story is fact or a case of media sensationalism. With its flashbacks to multiple news stories over the years, the film begins as a procedural and evolves into Bill's personal journey of emotional turmoil in regards to his big sister's life and death.

Bill was only 16 years old when Kitty was killed; and three years later, he lost both legs while serving in Vietnam. It's his calmness and intelligence that we are so drawn to as he makes his way through the crime scenes, interviews witnesses/neighbors/family members, and examines as much of the existing evidence as possible. His fascinating journey finds him crossing paths with Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes", Abe Rosenthal (the NY Times editor who ran the original story and wrote a book about the case), the police detective who investigated the case, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney for Kitty's confessed murderer.

As compelling as the complete film is, there are a few segments that really stand out. Mr. Rosenthal's attitude and lack of remorse for running such a sloppy story is sickening – even 50 years after the fact. It's an extraordinary example of how the media can manipulate a story for ratings, and of how little things have changed over 5 decades. A face-to-face sit down with the Reverend son of the confessed killer is both awkward and frustrating, while also enlightening as to how family members can revise history in order to live with it. Finally, Bill's visit to the home of Kitty's old friend and neighbor Sofia is heartbreaking as the woman remembers comforting Kitty in her last few moments of life.

Bill discovers numerous conflicts to the original NYT story … there were two attacks, not three; the number 38 for witnesses seems to have been fabricated; most of the witnesses were ear-witnesses, not eye-witnesses; and there is every indication that multiple calls were made to the police … thereby muting the argument that neighbors were too apathetic or frightened to get involved. While none of these points are especially surprising to us, it's Bill's story now and we can't help but feel for him.

Mr. Soloman expertly structures the film so that we can experience both the highs and lows of Bill's efforts. We hear the recording of Kitty's former roommate as she shed lights on Kitty the person, rather than Kitty the victim. Bill reads the letter from Rocco, Kitty's ex-husband as he declines an interview. We are in the room when Bill is questioned as to whether he is part of the infamous Genovese crime family, and we see Bill tackle the trial transcripts with the words "heard screams, saw nothing" repeated many times. If this is a study on social behavior, it may be more pertinent to media motives than human reaction … but this isn't the place to bash the media – it's a compelling look at one man's quest to find peace with the past.

Reviewed by bob_meg 9 / 10

Incredibly absorbing deep-dive into one man's emotional obsession

I saw this new doc at a double play with The Lovers and The Despot and the two films couldn't be more different. In scale, the two subjects don't match at all: one woman's senseless 50-year-old slaying against a couple of South Korean filmmakers captive to the whims of Kim Jong Il. Yet The Lovers and The Despot put me to sleep.

The Witness, by contrast, kept me riveted. My jaw dropped, my eyes wet, I got very angry --- everything you want from a good documentary. I'm old enough to remember the murder of Kitty Genovese or at least the aftermath. You know, the woman who screamed for help and was murdered over a 35 minute period while her neighbors did nothing to assist her?

Or did they? And that's where The Witness really goes in for the choke. What you thought you knew for certain may not be true, just as what Kitty's brother Bill assumed was fact and based many of his voluntary (and involuntary) life decisions upon for the rest of his life.

Filmmaker James Solomon holds back nothing while holding his subjects in nothing but the utmost respect. This is largely in credit to Bill Genovese who displays incredible honesty, tolerance, and courage as he uncovers holes, detours, and details in his sister's senseless murder and it's subsequent reporting and media blitz that are shocking and very disturbing.

But you're never invited to pity Solomon, and you won't. The Witness takes a very grim and depressing event and turns it inside out by placing you as close to the action as possible, then gently daring you to not look away. You won't.

Reviewed by clarkj-565-161336 8 / 10

No Man Left Behind

This was a riveting movie from beginning to end. William Genovese embarks on a long and difficult search for clues as to what really happened to his sister Kitty back in 1964 when she was brutally murdered. As a marine losing both legs in Vietnam, you can feel his pain knowing that his buddies were there for him, but his sister apparently died alone. William slowly begins to fit together a more complete picture of what happened. I think that his honesty and lack of judgment allowed him to discover things that would probably have remained hidden for ever. What is uncovered is complex and not easily defined. What is evident, however, is that nothing can ever replace original and painstaking research. The movie is well produced and the graphic illustrations are imaginative and well placed.

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