In 1996, JonBenét Ramsey was killed at her home in Boulder, Colorado. In 2017, over 20 years later, the case remains unsolved and, frankly, just as unsettling. Ramsey's murder investigation was the topic of several specials last year and has been brought up once again — this time for Netflix. The streaming service's particular doc, however, aims to look at the case through an entirely different lens. Instead of focusing on Ramsey's family, the documentary narrative hybrid will focus on the effects of Ramsey's tragedy on a much larger scale.
In the newly released Casting JonBenét preview, eight young girls dressed in identical outfits are waiting to be called on for an audition. (Clearly, the documentary takes its title from the content of this scene.) In a tone similar to last year's Kate Plays Christine, which followed an actress's descent into the mind of a reporter who shot herself on air in the '70s, Casting JonBenét is a documentary hybrid that bends the confines of its own genre. For a murder case that seemed to defy logic, this fits.
"My name is Hannah," one of the girls says. "And I'm auditioning for the role of JonBenét Ramsey." Then, innocently, she asks the person behind the camera, "Do you know who killed JonBenét Ramsey?" The macabre question mixed with the unwariness of a 6-year-old girl makes for a chilling, albeit bewildering, moment. Watch it below.
According to The Hollywood Reporter,
Filmmakers traveled to Ramsey's hometown of Boulder, Colorado, to ask residents to talk about their personal experiences with the trial and the strange mythology that continues to surround the tragedy, through reflections and even performances. The film examines how this crime shaped the attitudes and behavior of successive generations of local parents and children.
It sounds like the documentary — which Netflix described as being "sly and stylized" — will showcase the grander context of the Ramsey case, perhaps adding more insight into the why instead of the who. Even further, it might elucidate what the tragedy meant to the community and to those who witnessed the aftermath firsthand.
As 2016 was the 20th anniversary of Ramsey's case, several documentaries aimed to "solve" the cold case. Ultimately, we're no closer to finding out what happened on that night in 1996 than we were 20 years ago, but that doesn't stop us from wanting to try. Perhaps the new vantage point in Casting JonBenét will shed light on aspects of the case we didn't even know were hidden in the shadows.
Casting JonBenét will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in a few days, but you can catch in on Netflix in April.