James Solomon’s documentary The Witness follows Bill Genovese, a Vietnam veteran who more than 40 years later continues to be haunted by the circumstances surrounding the death of his 28-year-old sister, Kitty Genovese, who was brutally murdered in March 1964 in the Kew Gardens section of Queens, NY.
At the time of the killing, America was seeking to answer the question of “who we were as a nation,” says Solomon, and the New York Times reported under the editorial watch of then-Metropolitan editor A.M. Rosenthal that 38 residents heard the screams in the street and did nothing to help Kitty. The Witness unveils that wasn’t necessarily so. The story, which was picked up by other outlets at the time, froze the nation over how apathetic we could be as a society, and Kitty’s case became a partial catalyst for the establishment of the 911 Emergency system in the U.S.
Solomon, the award-winning writer on Robert Redford’s 2010 film The Conspirator and such TV series as The Practice, 100 Centre Street and ESPN’s The Bronx Is Burning, met Bill when he was about to pen an HBO movie of “the 38” and Kitty’s murder. But Solomon sensed there was more to the story than what was reported and in 2004 began production on a documentary that spotlighted Bill’s personal investigation over the next decade as he uncovered some earth-shattering details about his sister and what happened that night.
In this video from our AwardsLine screening last week, Solomon reveals that Kitty didn’t die alone. Originally released this summer theatrically by FilmRise, The Witness is an Oscar entry in the feature doc category and you can watch it on Netflix and iTunes. Recently the Broadcast Film Critics nominated The Witness for Best Feature Documentary and Best First Feature Documentary.