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What Do People from Perugia Think of the New Amanda Knox Documentary?

After Meredith Kercher's murder, international media portrayed student town Perugia as a place where students partied, boned and got murdered. Now the city is back in the spotlight.

by Leon Benz
12 October 2016, 9:00am

Via Appia in Perugia, image via Wikimedia Commons

This article originally appeared on VICE Italy

I was born and still live in Perugia, the Italian student city where Meredith Kercher was murdered in 2007. Our town was shocked and heartbroken that such a gruesome murder could have taken place here – and in the weeks, months and years after her murder, everyone in Perugia closely followed the reporting on the case in international media. But Perugians soon noticed that almost every report characterised our city as a place where hedonistic students partied, boned and were murdered.

Now, almost nine years later, the latest addition to the story around Meredith Kercher's death is the new Netflix documentary Amanda Knox. The documentary sparked a lot of debate in Perugia, inspiring comments like "for the umpteenth time, Perugia is on trial, slandered, defamed without a chance of redemption", or something to that dramatic Italian effect.

So I decided to talk to some Perugians about what effect they think the documentary and the tragic events of 2007 have had on our city.

MICHELA, 30, ART HISTORY GRADUATE

VICE: Have you seen the latest documentary on Amanda Knox?
Michela: Yes, I saw it a few days ago. I had the impression that, in trying to tell this story, the writers made these ridiculous caricatures of the people featured in the film. Like Raffaele Sollecito, who smokes joints but is a good boy in the end. Or Amanda – the strange, pretty girl who breaks into a smile when she remembers that Sollecito said he wanted to get her some perfume.

How close do you think they kept to the facts?
I don't think they went deep enough. The fact the Rudy Guede appears for ten minutes out of an hour and half – while he is one of the main players in the case and was convicted – shows how Netflix was mostly focused on getting the ingredients of the story they wanted to tell: youth, the "bella Italia" stereotype, sex, drugs and murder.

How much do you think this case has affected the town?
So much. It used to be like any other university town. I swear that Perugia changed overnight – this story changed how we all saw our own city. Only now it's starting to get itself back together, but for years the town was reduced to being the backdrop to this trial.

Do you think the press had a large role in this?
Of course, and they were manipulating how people viewed our city. I remember one time, for example, a friend of mine started talking to a girl who was having a glass of wine somewhere. The girl offered him some of her drink, so he took a sip. At exactly that moment someone with a camera popped up and took a picture that was supposed to show that young people in Perugia were drinkers. The girl turned out to be a journalist.

LUIGI, 70, NEWSAGENT

Hello Luigi, have you heard about the documentary on Amanda Knox?
Luigi: No, I haven't heard about it, or I would have seen it. I'll watch it tonight. But I don't think it will change how I see the whole thing.

Why is that?
Let's say I followed the case from up close: because of my job, I followed practically every step of the investigation and trial every day. This story has always upset me. The trial was unfair, but I also remember how the journalists and the media described Perugia in those years – like a drugs capital, like a city filled with assassins. I mean, you'll find drugs and murders in any city, right?

Do you think people's view on Perugia is distorted?
Well, American students have stopped coming here. For years, we had a wonderful exchange between cultures and generations – that all disappeared.

GIORGIA AND IRENE, 20, STUDENTS

Have you heard about the documentary on Amanda Knox?
Giorgia: Yes, but I don't have Netflix so I haven't seen it.
Irene: I haven't seen it because I don't really like those stories – I don't think we need more media attention.

Do you think the story influenced the perception people have of Perugia?
Giorgia: I really think so.
Irene: Absolutely. I remember, for example, that when I moved to the centre, people warned me to not go out alone because they said it would be dangerous. I heard people talk about about nightly fights, shootings, drugs – and I think that a lot of that kind of talk is linked to the Kercher case.

MARCO, 33, SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING MANAGER

In 2007 you were studying at the University of Perugia. Do you have any personal memories of Kercher's murder?
Marco: I do – Meredith was in a class with me. I didn't know her and we never spoke, but the morning after the murder the professor asked where the "Erasmus group" was, and I replied that they weren't there because one of them had died. That's what I had heard. The class then just went on as normal.

What did you think of the documentary?
I read some time ago about a meeting between Netflix Italy, the documentary makers and someone from [Italy's national public broadcasting company] RAI. Netflix said the documentary would concentrate on the role of the media in the story and I would have found that interesting. But then I saw the documentary, and the only focus on the role of the media is when they talk to a journalist, Nick Pisa from the Daily Mail who – in his own words – was someone who'd do anything to get his story on the front page.

ANTONIO, 55, MANAGER/CHEF AT A CIGARETTE SHOP AND BISTRO

Have you heard about the American documentary on Meredith Kercher's case that came out?
Antonio: No, I haven't heard anything about it.

Your bistro is close to the court where the trial for Kercher's murder took place. What do you remember of that time?
I remember that everyone was talking about it. In the morning, people would come into the shop just to talk about it. During the days of the trial, there were hundreds of journalists from all over the world. The entire square was filled with television crews and cameras.

Do you think that the media attention gave people a certain impression of the town?
I'd say so. If only for the fact that sometimes tourists come and ask where Meredith's house was and not, for example, where they can find the National Gallery of Umbria.

ANDREA, 22, COOK

What did you think about Amanda Knox?
Andrea: They wanted to tell a particular story and they've done everything they can to have it appeal to a wide audience.

How do you think the documentary related the facts?
I think that the reconstruction wasn't bad – it was based on real documents and facts. But, of course, there are also things they didn't report because it didn't fit into their narrative – like the fact that the police force that took over the second part of the investigation wasn't from Perugia but from the south of Italy.

Do you have any specific memories of the time of the case?
I remember the incredible chaos the night of the murder – the police were everywhere, and we were all trying to find out what had happened. Perugia was on television all over the world.

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