We already have a relatively new JonBenet Ramsey murder documentary thanks to CBS and the true-crime renaissance facilitated by both fictionalized (The People vs. O.J. Simpson) and nonfiction (O.J.: Made In America) mastepieces of the genre. But Casting JonBenet, the acclaimed Sundance release from director Kitty Green, is not just another documentary.
Rather than simply rehashing the details of the case, or even re-dramatizing them, Green called in a series of professional and amateur actors from Boulder, Colorado, the the city where the murder took place, and asked them to auditon for the roles of JonBenet and her family. In the process, she asked them to offer up their thoughts and feelings about the case.
Through this unconventional prism, the film becomes a genre-bending, eerie and new kind of ride. Seeing half a dozen little JonBenets dancing around together is disorienting enough, but then you realize that they’re competing to be the best version of a girl who competed to be the best version of a girl in child beauty pageants, and everything is heightened. This looks intense, fascinating and haunting.
Casting JonBenet arrives on Netflix April 28.