Kitty Green's recent Netflix documentary, Casting JonBenet (2017), has produced an overwhelming amount of criticism, both positive and negative, for its depiction of a community still grappling with the heinous murder of child pageant star JonBenet Ramsey twenty years after it occurred. Green's approach both challenges existing paradigms of documentary reenactment (and reenactment theories) and reclaims notions of gossip and public life. This article proposes that Casting JonBenet redirects attention away from the sensational trappings of the murder case to shine a light on the case's distributive impact. Triple-casting each player–as actor, character, and themselves-goes beyond the usual doubleness of reenactment documentaries to uncover the hidden intimacies of the local, in its many performative and revealing permutations.
Off the Record: Reenactment and Intimacy in Casting JonBenet
Marc Francis is a PhD candidate in the Department of Film and Digital Media at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His work focuses on queer film and media. His essays have appeared in Camera Obscura and Jump Cut. He curates the L.A.-based film series Wayward Cinema and is the editorial assistant for Film Quarterly.
Linnéa Hussein is a PhD candidate in Cinema Studies at New York University, where she is writing her dissertation, “Documenting Schizophrenia: The Scientific Gaze, Personal Testimonies, and Medical Training.” Her articles and reviews have appeared in The New Inquiry, Social Text, and Film & History.
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Marc Francis, Linnéa Hussein; Off the Record: Reenactment and Intimacy in Casting JonBenet. Film Quarterly 1 September 2017; 71 (1): 32–41. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2017.71.1.32
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