The Witness

May 3, 2016

Catherine "Kitty" Genovese was stabbed to death on a street in Queens, New York, in 1964, and 38 witnesses, it was claimed, did nothing. More than 50 years later, her brother uncovers a lie that transformed his life, condemned a city, and defined an era.

The murder of Kitty Genovese transfixed New York and the world; it came to symbolize the apathy and indifference of urban life, and for many, a great social breakdown. Now, The Witness, a new film by James Solomon, follows Kitty's brother Bill Genovese about his sister's life and tracks down the neighbors who, according to the press, did nothing as the terror-filled screams of rape and murder took place outside their windows.

A half-century after the crime, spurred by the recent death of Kitty's murderer Winston Moseley, the film also re-examines the journalistic telling of the story, its distortions, and how certain narratives "go viral" by capturing the anxieties of their times.

A screening of The Witness was followed by a conversation that explores the case that motivated the study of "The Bystander Effect," led to the creation of 911 emergency call lines, and held the public imagination to become an American obsession.