Netflix’s Casting JonBenet – A New Perspective on an Previously Exhausted Case

If you are looking for an very technical, in-depth analysis of the JonBenet Ramsey case, this isn’t it. In fact, I recommend watching, or reading or listening to a different source, if you are unfamiliar with the case, before watching this documentary. If you are unfamiliar with this story, you may not be getting the most out of this documentary that you could be.

The documentary poses as an audition for, let’s say, a Lifetime original movie about JonBenet Ramsey’s murder. Each actor who auditions is from the Boulder area, and many lived there during the time of the murder (December 26th, 1996).

The documentary trades off between interviewing the actor’s about their personal experiences with the case, their actual auditions, and their reenactments of the murder.

The reenactments are truly what is so chilling. After intimately meeting the people behind the auditions, watching them reenact the family and their horrible situation… it just feels like you’re watching something wrong, something we aren’t suppose to see. It’s bone chilling. Suddenly the case, one that we’ve known about for long enough to become desensitized to it, feels very real. That’s when I realized why it felt so wrong to watch the reenactments with real people, because after 20 years, it’s difficult for us to look at the Ramsey’s as real people, with real lives, just as the actor’s auditioning do. Just as we do.

As the documentary continues, it begins to feel like you’ve become more acquainted with the actors than the family, or the case. But these actors, by telling their own stories and how they feel connected to the Ramsey case, breathe life into the Ramsey family and JonBenet’s death in a way that technical documentaries aren’t capable of doing. It humanized her, her parents, and her murder.

As someone who has extensively researched this case, did I learn anything new? No. But, did this documentary force me to look at this case with a new perspective? Yes. And perhaps that’s the only way it will ever be solved, not with new evidence, but with a new perspective.

This documentary is different than most crime documentaries. It is not technical. There are no experts. There is no evidence presented. But by withholding these pieces, it humanizes the victim and makes her life seem much more than just a 20 year old unsolved murder, because it was.

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