The Witness (2015 American film)

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The Witness
The Witness Official Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJames D. Solomon
Produced by
  • James D. Solomon
  • William Genovese (Executive Producer)
  • Melissa Jacobson (Co-Producer)
  • Maria Valva (Associate Producer)
Written by
  • William Genovese
  • Russell Greene
  • Gabriel Rhodes
  • James D. Solomon
Music byNathan Halpern
CinematographyTrish Govoni
Edited byGabriel Rhodes
Russell Greene
Distributed byFilmRise
Release date
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Witness is a 2015 American documentary directed by James D. Solomon. His directorial debut, it was produced by Solomon, with William Genovese as Executive Producer and co-produced by Melissa Jacobson. It is narrated by Genovese which investigates the killing of his sister, Catherine Susan "Kitty" Genovese, in Kew Gardens, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens, on March 13, 1964,[1] by Winston Moseley.[2]

Upon its release film received rave reviews from critics and was shortlisted with fourteen other documentaries from 145 entries submitted to the 89th Academy Awards in Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature category.[3]


The name Kitty Genovese became synonymous with bystander apathy after The New York Times reported that 38 witnesses heard her being murdered — and did nothing to help. THE WITNESS follows her brother Bill's search for the truth. In the process, he unravels a myth that transformed his life, condemned a city, and defined an era. THE WITNESS debunks one of America's most chilling crime stories as a brother reclaims his sister's forgotten life from her infamous death.


  • Kitty Genovese as herself (archive footage)
  • William Genovese as himself (brother of Kitty)
  • Sophia Farrar as herself (neighbour of Kitty)
  • Abe Rosenthal as himself
  • Mike Wallace as himself
  • Gabe Pressman as himself
  • Shannon Beeby as herself


The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 91% approval rating for all critics, based on 57 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Witness can't hope to truly untangle the true crime case at its center, but offers a series of fascinating — and troubling — insights in the attempt."[4] On Metacritic, the film holds a score of 79 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[5]

Entertainment Weekly's, Joe McGovern also lauded the series saying, "The powerful thrust of the film comes from its critique of the media."[6] Justin Chang of LA Times lauded the film and said, "The strength of The Witness lies in its recognition that the truth is often not just elusive but unattainable."[7] Reviewing for film critic Matt Zoller Seitz wrote, "This is a powerful movie, but perhaps its greatest triumph is that for a brief time it resurrects Kitty Genovese, and lets us see her as a person"[8] Farran Smith Nehme of New York Post explained, "Solomon and Genovese remind us that all witnesses can be unreliable, in one way or another. The emotional impact comes from the gentle way the film reveals Kitty Genovese as a loving, vibrant person, and not as a symbol."[9]

Film critic Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal also reviewed the series positively saying, "The Witness is remarkable for its emotional impact, and its clarity. The picture that emerges isn’t perfectly clear; the whole truth will never be known, Bill Genovese says. What he has made known, though, is valuable."[10] Indiewire's critic, Kate Erbland said, ""Although The Witness functions just fine as a true crime documentary in the vein of such en vogue offerings as Serial and 'Making a Murderer, the film makes its mark when it leans in on the deeply personal connection between its subject and its storyteller."[11] The New York Times's Andy Webster praises the film and said, "A re-creation of the night, with an actress playing the screaming victim while Mr. Genovese observes, is harrowing."[12] The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck expressed,"Few films feel as cathartic as James Solomon's documentary The Witness."[13]

Pat Padua of The Washington Post positively reviewed the series and said, "The Witness makes an encouraging case for the argument that society is not as apathetic as we fear. But it also reveals a troubling phenomenon: our willingness to accept all that we are told as truth.[14] Writing for Variety, Nick Schager wrote, "The Witness functions as a project of not only confrontation but resurrection, as Bill's sleuthing sheds new light on Kitty’s personality, romances and career, and thus finally re-emphasizes her as a flesh-and-blood person rather than just a famous victim."[15] Moderately reviewing for The A.V. Club, A.A. Dowd said, "Perhaps because any real closure is impossible at this point, The Witness eventually embraces its own inconclusiveness, like some documentary cousin to "Zodiac."[16]

The Witness was named as one of the best films of 2016 by Richard Brody of The New Yorker and David Edelstein New York.[citation needed]


Award Category Recipients and nominees Results Ref.
Atlanta Film Festival Best Documentary Feature James D. Solomon Nominated
Boulder International Film Festival Best Feature Documentary (Theatrical Feature) James D. Solomon Won
Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Best First Documentary James D. Solomon Nominated
Best Documentary Feature The Witness Nominated
Hong Kong International Film Festival Golden Firebird Award (Documentary) James D. Solomon Nominated
Sarasota Film Festival Best Documentary Feature - Jury James D. Solomon Nominated


  1. ^ "Queens Woman Is Stabbed to Death in Front of Home". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. March 14, 1964. p. 26. Retrieved July 5, 2007.
  2. ^ Gansberg, Martin (March 27, 1964). "37 Who Saw Murder Didn't Call the Police" (PDF). The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 7, 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. ^ "15 Documentary Feature advance in 2016 Oscar Race". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. December 6, 2016. Retrieved January 15, 2017.
  4. ^ "The Witness (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  5. ^ "The Witness Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  6. ^ McGovern, Joe (June 1, 2015). "The Witness: EW review". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  7. ^ Chang, Justin (June 16, 2016). "'The Witness' powerfully revisits the murder of Kitty Genovese". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  8. ^ Seitz, Matt Zoller (Jun 3, 2016). "The Witness, Review". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  9. ^ Smith Nehme, Farran (Jun 2, 2016). "Kitty Genovese murder doc recalls the infamous crime". New York Post. NYP Holdings. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  10. ^ Morgenstern, Joe (Jun 2, 2016). "Review: 'The Witness' Throws Shocking New Light On New York's Most Infamous Murder". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  11. ^ Erbland, Kate (Jun 2, 2016). "Review: 'The Witness' Throws Shocking New Light On New York's Most Infamous Murder". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  12. ^ Webster, Andy (June 2, 2016). "Review: 'The Witness,' a Brother's Quest to Put Kitty Genovese Case to Rest". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  13. ^ Scheck, Frank (January 21, 2016). "The Witness: NYFF Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  14. ^ Padua, Pat (June 30, 2016). "One lesson from 'The Witness': Don't believe everything that you read". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  15. ^ Schager, Nick (January 21, 2016). "Film Review: 'The Witness'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  16. ^ Dowd, A.A. (June 1, 2016). "The Witness puts a personal spin on a true crime and the apathy it inspired". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  17. ^ "The Witness". Atlanta Film Festival. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  18. ^ "The Witness". Boulder International Film Festival. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  19. ^ Erbland, Kate (October 10, 2016). "Inaugural Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Heap Nominations on '13th,' 'O.J.: Made In America' and 'Gleason'". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  20. ^ "Films". The 40th Hong Kong International Film Festival. Hong Kong International Film Festival. Archived from the original on February 1, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2017. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  21. ^ Ogles, Jacob (March 16, 2016). "Sarasota Film Festival releases complete program of films for 2016". SRQ Backlot. Retrieved January 19, 2017.

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