The unsolved death of six-year-old American beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey remains the world’s most sensational child murder case. Netflix’s new documentary takes a look at the infamous 1996 murder through the eyes of actors trying to audition for a “fictional” film about the case.
Documentaries are often a space for confession or interrogation that is both intimate and private, where people can discuss their life stories into a camera. The new movie, Casting JonBenét, premiered April 28 on Netflix, with an ensemble of aspiring actors sharing their thoughts and memories, some personal and others mundane, as if trying to win the viewer over with their tragedies.
The 80-minute film functions as a casting call for an unnamed, non-existent fiction movie about the shocking unsolved murder that captured America’s imagination for years. Director Kitty Green auditions local residents of Boulder, Colo., where JonBenét lived and died, for various roles: her mom Patsy, her father John, her brother Burke, the local police chief and, of course, JonBenét herself. The film begins with the compelling sight of children in stars-and-stripes-themed pageant wear sitting in chairs waiting for their audition and from there, it only gets weirder.
Green isn’t curious about the actors’ performances, but why they might relate to the parts they’re looking to play, particularly the Ramsey parents. She explores the tragedy and its aftershocks through the reactions of the actors and is interested in gathering their opinions on the case, their recollections of the media at the time and their theories on who may have killed JonBenét and why.