James D. Solomon's The Witness takes an investigative look at the famed murder of Kitty Genovese, a woman who was repeatedly attacked on a street in Kew Gardens, Queens. The murder gained massive notoriety with The New York Times asserting that 38 witnesses saw the attack take place but did nothing to help. The aftermath of this woman's death sparked outrage in the community and the nation, with her death becoming a symbol of urban apathy. Following the efforts of her younger brother, Bill Genovese, a man who has never been able to fully let go of his older sister's untimely death, The Witness is a powerful documentary that is both humanely intimate and vast in its exploration of larger social issues. James D. Solomon's The Witness is a very powerful investigative crime documentary due to the spotlight it shines on Bill Genovese, a man who has become obsessive about his desire to learn the truth about his sister for his own personal resolve. Bill is a man who looks into every angle about the case itself, examining the crime scenes and learning about the the gross exaggerations by the media to feed their narrative. The film exposes how this narrative of human apathy became entrenched into the psyche of society, becoming a rallying cry for the importance of showing apathy and compassion. More importantly, The Witness showcases how this social narrative effected Bill himself, a man who joined the Marines after the start of the Vietnam War, with this urban apathy narrative dictating many of the decisions that made up his life and shaped his identity. The Witness is as much about how death shapes the living and those close to the departed as it's about society, with Ben being a man whose decisions in his life were shaped by the heinous murder of his sister. Bill's obsession is his way of dealing with his sister's death and the way The Witness explores death's effect on life is one of its most powerful attributes. Bill's journey for the truth exhibits societal's desire to feed a narrative, showcasing how quickly speculation can become fact and manifest itself into the very culture, a very dangerous thing when it isn't the fully-fleshed out truth. Apathy was certainly a factor in the death of Kitty Genovese, but the way the full-fledged story never was told is rather apalling, making this heinous act of violence even more depressing about humanity. In a way, The Witness is an emotional cocktail of forgiveness, acceptance, media sensualisation, and the desire for the truth, with Bill being a character who comes to accept his sisters death through the making of this film, a man who has come to understand that he will never fully understand the truth of her death.
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