Netflix has released a trailer for their upcoming documentary American Murder: The Family Next Door. Directed by Jenny Popplewell, the film pieces together the disappearance of Shanann Watts and her two young daughters, who went missing in Frederick, Colorado in 2018.
True Crime documentaries always have a tricky line to walk. They can verge on the exploitative, but they also appeal for our need for justice. As we put more of our lives online, there’s more data for these documentaries to draw from, and American Murder uses social media, law enforcement recordings, text messages, and home videos to tell its story. This wealth of archival footage can be a boon to trying to understand a case, but without some larger scope or understanding, a film can easily slip into voyeurism. I’m interested in the case of Watts, but hopefully it’s handled with tact rather than easy entertainment. Again, that’s always the challenge with True Crime, but as we saw earlier this year with I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, the more voice you give to the victims, the stronger your storytelling will be.
Check out the trailer below. American Murder: The Family Next Door arrives on Netflix on September 30th.
Here’s the official synopsis for American Murder: The Family Next Door:
In 2018, 34-year-old Shanann Watts and her two young daughters went missing in Frederick, Colorado. As heartbreaking details emerged, their story made headlines worldwide. Told entirely through archival footage that includes social media posts, law enforcement recordings, text messages and never-before-seen home videos, director Jenny Popplewell pieces together an immersive and truthful examination of a police investigation and a disintegrating marriage. AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR is the first film to give a voice to the victims.