Casting JonBenet sits on top of Netflix documentaries


Cover for new Netflix series “Casting JonBenet” released on April 28.

Ahilyn Aguilar, News Editor

Was it a member of her family? A kidnap attempt gone wrong? Almost 20 years after the her disappearance, many still debate the question “Who murdered JonBenet Ramsey?”

The case that has haunted conspiracy theory lovers worldwide since Dec.26, 1996 has finally, after multiple fan requests, made its way to Netflix. To say the new Netflix documentary Casting JonBenet is different, is an understatement.

The 80 minute documentary directed by Kitty Green focuses on the 20-year mystery of who killed 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, but through a unique means of storytelling. Unlike other Netflix murder documentaries such as the one on Amanda Knox, a college student accused of murdering her roommate, Green’s documentary breaks its standards by examining the public rather than family members or suspects.

This intriguingly unique project presents itself as a series of casting-session interviews with want-to-be actors who live in Boulder, Colo. where the Ramseys lived. Real people are shown auditioning for the role of the Ramsey’s and others involved in the case such as the city’s police chief and John Mark Karr, a pretender of the murderer who was later dismissed by the police.

The documentary alternates between the each actor’s best guesses as to what happened to reenact the events that happened leading up to, during and after JonBenet’s death. Within 10 minutes into the documentary, viewers begin to understand why this particular murder mystery affected Americans so profoundly.

Whether or not the audience knows about the case, Green makes it easy to understand all conspiracy theories surrounding JonBenet’s death and even creates new and surprising insights.

Casting JonBenet explores the most famous conspiracy theories through the actors. Such speculations are developed from each actor’s personal experience. The most noticeable one comes from a candidate trying out for Pasty’s role, which includes her experience of losing a daughter. Such insight later supports one of the case’s theories: Patsy murdered her own daughter due to jealousy and raging emotions.

The documentary spends a great amount of time analyzing another one of the theories, that JonBenet was killed by her brother Burke by accident, and the family staged the crime scene to cover for him. Green expands on this theory by asking those auditioning for Burke to demonstrate how they might crush a skull by hammering a watermelon with a flashlight. It’s dark, but it effectively completes the purpose of leading viewers to a possible assumption about the murder.

Casting JonBenet finalizes with a sharing of a multiple surreal reenactments of the murder such as John Ramsey discovering his daughter’s body and the officer driving to the house of crime.

However, what makes Green’s production really stand out is its cinematography. Unlike other Netflix documentaries, Green uses camera movement to expand the meaning of JonBenet’s case.

Using the camera to her advantage, Green reveals the Ramsey house filled with all the actors the viewers have seen audition. This displays the infinite possible explanations or theories as each one seems to represent what might have happened to JonBenet, but each in a different way.

Even though the documentary is based on casting calls and actors trying to get roles, the making of a movie is yet to be determined, however, viewers can assume that the future of a JonBenet movie relies on the film’s popularity.  
Although Casting JonBenet does not answer the question of who committed the murder directly, it is the only recreation of the case that combines all the evidence gathered throughout the years and turns it into a beautifully dark but interesting documentary. Though the film built on the perspective of strangers, viewers will find it impossible to look away from.