When we first covered the initial release of Stillwater, we specifically noted that the movie seemed to be drawing comparisons to the Amanda Knox story. At first, that seemed like maybe a coincidence, but the director has gone on the record to say that Knox's story inspired the movie. Knox, who was exonerated of her charges, took issue with the way the movie is trying to say it is a story inspired by what happened to her with a character that seems to call into question her innocence. She wrote a very long Twitter thread, which is absolutely worth reading, but also posted the entire thing on Medium under the headline Who Owns My Name?
Does my name belong to me? Does my face? What about my life? My story? Why is my name used to refer to events I had no hand in? I return to these questions because others continue to profit off my name, face, and story without my consent. Most recently, the film Stillwater.
Knox goes on to talk about how the director wants to "step away" from her story but also keeps using her name to promote the movie Stillwater.
"We decided, 'Hey, let's leave the Amanda Knox case behind,'" McCarthy tells Vanity Fair. "But let me take this piece of the story — an American woman studying abroad involved in some kind of sensational crime and she ends up in jail — and fictionalize everything around it." Let me stop you right there. That story, my story, is not about an American woman studying abroad "involved in some kind of sensational crime." It's about an American woman NOT involved in a sensational crime, and yet wrongfully convicted.
And if you're going to "leave the Amanda Knox case behind," and "fictionalize everything around it," maybe don't use my name to promote it. You're not leaving the Amanda Knox case behind very well if every single review mentions me. You're not leaving the Amanda Knox case behind when my face appears on profiles and articles about the film.
Knox goes into detail about various story details of the movie, and the character that is supposed to be the one that sort of based on her throws her own innocence into question.
By fictionalizing away my innocence, my total lack of involvement, by erasing the role of the authorities in my wrongful conviction, McCarthy reinforces an image of me as a guilty and untrustworthy person. And with Matt Damon's star power, both are sure to profit handsomely off of this fictionalization of "the Amanda Knox saga" that is sure to leave plenty of viewers wondering, "Maybe the real-life Amanda was involved somehow."
The entire essay and thread are absolutely worth a read when it comes to talking about agency and power dynamics. In recent years, we have started to have a conversation about the way that the media handled the Clinton scandal. About how Monica Lewinsky was vilified and how the power dynamics of being involved by one of the most powerful men in the world. It very much sounds like Amanda Knox's story also deserves a second look because the focus of the story shouldn't be her; as she says, it should be on Meredith Kercher, the actual victim.
Summary: A dramatic thriller directed by Academy Award® winner Tom McCarthy and starring Matt Damon, Stillwater follows an American oil-rig roughneck from Oklahoma who travels to Marseille to visit his estranged daughter, in prison for a murder she claims she did not commit. Confronted with language barriers, cultural differences, and a complicated legal system, Bill builds a new life for himself in France as he makes it his personal mission to exonerate his daughter.
Stillwater, directed by Tom McCarthy, stars Matt Damon, Abigail Breslin, and Camille Cottin. It will be released on July 30, 2021.