Your Content, My Life
Eight years after my release from an Italian prison, I’m still someone else’s story
I’ve had more than my fair share of surreal moments. You probably know the obvious ones. The moment an Italian court declared me guilty of a murder I didn’t commit was mind-breaking. Up until that instant, I thought my innocence was a guarantee of my freedom. I was wrong. The moment I was acquitted was just as insane. I had prepared myself to grow old in prison. I’d forgotten what it was like to walk on grass.
I’m about to return to Italy for the first time since I was released from prison and fled the country in a high-speed chase, paparazzi literally ramming the back of my stepdad’s rental car. I’m doing so because I’ve been invited by the Italy Innocence Project to speak about wrongful convictions and trial by media. And as this homecoming looms (or is it a “deployment” or “madness” — no word seems to fit), a different sort of surreal moment is at the forefront of my mind.
In September 2016, Netflix released a documentary about my case. I had agreed to participate in this film, directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn, after I had been reconvicted in absentia. I thought it might be my only chance to give my side of the story. And so I entrusted my life, my truth, to these filmmakers. Many friends and confidants urged me not to. But I thought Brian and Rod made a moving and honest documentary, a film that gave every person involved, even my prosecutor, the space to display their humanity. I had high hopes for the film’s debut. I hoped people would like it, that they would learn something about the dangers of unscrupulous media, that they might finally see at least a glimpse of the real me.
And then, of course, Netflix chose to advertise Amanda Knox with twin massive billboards in L.A. and New York: my face and the words “monster” on one and “victim” on the other. They were playing the “did she or didn’t she game” that I was already so, so tired of. I remember standing in Times Square underneath those giant photos of my face, pedestrians passing by me, none the wiser. That was bizarre, and it was bizarre in a way that forced me to reckon with what it meant for my life to be other people’s content.