Magazine article Screen International

Berlin: Kitty Green and James Schamus on Doc 'Casting JonBenet'

Magazine article Screen International

Berlin: Kitty Green and James Schamus on Doc 'Casting JonBenet'

Article excerpt

Kitty Green's experimental documentary Casting JonBenet continues to build buzz in Berlin, following on from its world premiere in Sundance in January.

Centring on local actors who audition for a docu-drama about the unsolved murder of six-year-old child beauty-pageant queen JonBenet Ramsey, the Australian director brings an unusual perspective to one of the US's most notorious unsolved crimes.

Green and producer (and former CEO of Focus Features) James Schamus spoke to Screen following the film's screening in Panorama.

What inspired you to look at the case of JonBenet Ramsey 20 years later?

Kitty Green: The idea stems from my short film The Face Of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul, which documented the conflict in Ukraine through casting tapes. I wanted to create something that wasn't propaganda, and that could show both the humour and the pain of these people. After the film won a prize at Sundance [Short Form Jury Prize, 2015], people kept asking how they could see it in America, and I immediately started thinking about JonBenet. I grew up fascinated by the case, thinking all girls in America were in beauty pageants. And her story was similar to the girls in Ukraine who dress up as figure skaters.

How honest were you with the actors that their auditions would be in the film?

James Schamus: Kitty was very direct with the local actors before they auditioned and they were up for it, they put their trust in her. We had a cast party after the world premiere at Sundance, and many of the people involved in the film got in vans and drove to the screening. Kitty, [producer] Scott Macaulay and I told them the audience may laugh, but they will also be touched. Audience members told Kitty how moved they were, both in the representation of the case but also of the community.

How did casting and shooting process work?

KG: We shot and edited the film in 15 months - we were ruthlessly efficient. …

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