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Netflix Buys Sundance Documentary ‘Casting JonBenet’

Variety logo Variety 5/01/2017 Dave McNary
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Netflix has acquired worldwide rights to Kitty Green’s documentary “Casting JonBenet,” which will have its world premiere later this month in the U.S. Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival.

Netflix noted that the Sundance premiere will be the first time a non-fiction work from the company will compete at the festival. The film will launch on Netflix and in limited theatrical release in the spring of 2017.

“Casting JonBenet” is an exploration of the still-unsolved death of six-year-old American beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey in 1996 in Colorado. Over 15 months, the filmmakers traveled to the Ramseys’ Colorado hometown to elicit responses and reflections from the local community. The film examines how this crime and its resulting mythologies have shaped the attitudes and behavior of successive generations of parents and children.

Producers are Green, Scott Macauley, and former Focus Features topper James Schamus. The film was financed by Meridian Entertainment through its production deal with Schamus’ Symbolic Exchange, with additional support from Screen Australia, Film Victoria, the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, Cinereach, Rooftop Films, and Garbo NYC.

“Casting JonBenet” is a Forensic Films/Matricide Pictures/Symbolic Exchange production. Green’s credits include 

“Ukraine Is Not a Brothel” and “The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul,” which premiered at Sundance in 2015, where it was awarded the short film non-fiction jury prize.

Macaulay’s credits include “Raising Victor Vargas.” Schamus was a producer on “Brokeback Mountain” and “The Ice Storm.” “For Scott and me, working with Kitty, a visionary filmmaker whose originality is matched by her empathy, has been one of the great privileges of our careers,” Schamus said.

“Kitty boldly embraces the tradition of innovative risk-taking within the documentary filmmaking mode with her remarkable work on ‘Casting JonBenet,'” Netflix VP of Original Documentary Programming Lisa Nishimura added. “Netflix is the ideal home for showcasing Kitty’s sharply-rendered vision of a mythic American tragedy to a global audience, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the crime.”

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