Cutting to the Facts
This December marks documentary film editor Matthew Hamachek’s fifth visit since he graduated in 2003. During each trip back to the Hill, Hamachek shares his most recent documentary work and meets with students to discuss the film and his career. Hamachek’s previous visits included screenings of ‘Racing Dreams’ (Curry, 2010), ‘If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front’ (Curry, 2011), ‘Gideon’s Army’ (Porter, 2013), and ‘Cartel Land’ (Heineman, 2015). This time, Hamachek’s visit focused on the highly acclaimed Netflix original documentary, ‘Amanda Knox,’ which he edited, co-produced, and co-wrote.
‘Amanda Knox’ (Blackhurst & McGinn, 2016), examines the conviction, trial, and eventual acquittal of Amanda Knox, an American exchange student that was accused of murdering her roommate and fellow exchange student, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy in 2007. Using never before seen footage and unprecedented interviews, the film condenses almost a decade of media coverage, investigative evidence, and archival material into a 90-minute film.
While ‘Amanda Knox’ presents all three sides of the investigation – the accused, the prosecutor, and the media – it doesn’t take a stance on Knox’s guilt or innocence. Rather, the film looks critically at the media’s role in twisting and exploiting tragic events for entertainment value.
Hamachek discussed the ethics and challenges of editing a film about a case so widely known and even polarizing among mass audiences: “You as an audience member are trusting the documentary filmmaker to make the right choices. We spent weeks, accumulatively months, talking about what are the three or four things that really cut to the truth of the story or are actually critical to understand what happened.” He went on to explain how the documentary is unique in that it looks back and tries to make sense of all of the events surrounding the murder in Italy, unlike other books and films that were released as events unfolded.
You as an audience member are trusting the documentary filmmaker to make the right choices.
It took a year and a half to complete the final cut of ‘Amanda Knox’. Hamachek’s process includes research and a lot of trial and error. As he described to students, “[The directors] sort of gave it to me and let me go for a long time…you make error, error, error [while editing] and then you make one good choice and then by the end of it you have something that works.” He emphasized that failure is a part of the creative process, allowing for new ideas and inspiration to develop into the best possible way of telling the story. Summing it up he said, “You spend a lot of time making it worse because you’re trying to get it right.”
Hamachek is currently wrapping post-production on the documentary ‘City of Ghosts’ (Heineman, 2017), which follows the extraordinary journey of Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently — a group of anonymous citizen journalists who banded together after their homeland was overtaken by ISIS. The documentary will premiere in competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in January. Next spring, Hamachek will begin editing a Showtime series examining the opioid epidemic in the United States.
For more on Matthew Hamachek and ‘Amanda Knox,’ visit the following links: