‘Weirder than Twin Peaks’: The unsolved murder of a child beauty queen

They immediately connected it to their own lives. So that’s nice.”

And having spent so much time listening to competing theories, has Green got one of her own? Did Green happen upon individuals or hypotheses that were simply too outlandish to make the final cut? “Especially the beauty pageant aspect. “We were very honest and upfront about what we wanted to do from the start. “There were definitely weirder theories. John and Patsy name him in their book The Death of Innocence. Patsy was a pageant mother and a former beauty queen. There is something particularly discombobulating about the level of misogyny displayed – by both men and women – and channelled, with no little venom, towards Patsy Ramsey. Michael Helgoth Had a history of sexual abuse and was in the area when JonBenét was murdered. I went in with a very open mind, with more questions than answers, and I came out none the wiser.”

 Casting JonBenét launches April 28th on Netflix  

Some of the various suspects in the case

John and Patsy Ramsey Despite years of scurrilous tabloid headlines, Patsy and John Ramsey were cleared by touch DNA evidence in 2008. They were just going on bits and pieces they had heard around the town or city or things they had read in the tabloids. “I’m interested in exploration, not conclusions. “We shot a few bits and pieces afterwards but I’m not sure it changed people’s opinions that radically,” says Green. Sometimes unprompted, they discuss why they think Patsy (or John, or their son, Burke, or a local paedophile) killed JonBenét. A huge number of the actors came to the premiere at Sundance and they were all thrilled with it. One popular theory suggests that JonBenét lives on as pop superstar Katy Perry. And even those who think that the brother was involved still point to the mother as being involved in the cover-up. Another postulates a strange corporeal revenge, as they connect the imagined dots between Patsy Ramsey’s alleged “coldness”, JonBenét’s death and Patsy’s death in 2006 from ovarian cancer. We got a lot of weird emails from people when they found out we were making the film. So we didn’t include them. As with his late mother, many viewers were quick to deride the young man, now aged 29, for smiling during the interview about his sister’s death. It was amazing how quickly people were to judge her in particular. The discovery of a “dark animal hair” on JonBenét’s person has inspired various wild animal theories. This is a portrait of a community coping with an unsolvable crime

“This is a portrait of a community coping with an unsolvable crime,” says Green, who lived in Boulder for months. Yet most of the film’s running time is not devoted to dramatic recreation but to pet theories found among the troop. They were warning us to stay away from the case. We haven’t had any negative reactions. McReynolds’s middle daughter and her friend had been abducted 22 years earlier. Growing up in Australia, I hadn’t seen anything like that before. Suspects include a bear, a wolf,  or an owl. “It’s a film about individual interpretations, so I don’t really want to impose a meaning on it,” she says. So I was really intrigued, and I never really let that go. Gary Oliva A registered sex offender and paedophile spotted near the Ramsey’s house on the night of the murder. “That was surprising,” says Green. I think a lot of that has to do with how women are represented in the media. The wannabe actors are often simultaneously unguarded (one chap goes into great detail about his whipping technique and S&M interests) and is well-versed in theories pertaining to the JonBenét case. “Americans love to talk,” says Green. The case has, additionally, attracted odd individuals, including the paedophile John Mark Karr, who confessed to the crime in 2006 only to be ruled out as an attention-seeker. But one can’t help but wonder how Green’s auditionees felt about the finished film? If it popped up in newspapers – as it often does – I would get sucked into the story all over again.”

Hundreds of local actors
As with The Face of Ukraine, Casting JonBenét explores the case through the audition tapes of hundreds of local actors in Boulder, Colorado, where the murder took place. I expected it to be a much longer process. Echoing the theory found in psychologist Andrew G Hodges’ A Mother Gone Bad: The Hidden Confession of JonBenét’s Killer, one acting hopeful suggests JonBenét’s mother did it after catching her husband sexually molesting her. Even if someone else did it, that didn’t mean that she was innocent in any way.”

We got a lot of weird emails from people when they found out we were making the film

Over the years, the murder of JonBenét Ramsey has been variously blamed on extra-terrestrials and a particularly vicious owl. Santa Claus Two days before JonBenét’s murder, former University of Colorado professor Bill McReynolds dressed up as Santa Claus at the Ramsey household, where he allegedly told the little girl she would “receive a special gift for Christmas”. As soon as you put them in front of a camera they know what to do. They were very condemnatory about her lifestyle without really knowing too much about her. A monster Not the figurative kind. “That’s something I found out quickly. Burke Ramsey In a recent CBS TV special, a forensic pathologist alleged that nine-year-old Burke Ramsey killed his sister in a fight over a bowl of pineapple. A lot of processing. They immediately had ideas about who done it.”

Green and some 200 Colorado locals – all hoping to play different members of the Ramsey family, local law enforcement officers, or other persons of interest – formed what the writer-director likens to “a local theatre group”. Some of them were just too out there, others were too scary. “We interviewed 200 people and almost everyone who sat down would immediately speculate about the mother. We carefully explained how we saw it coming together. A Satanic Cult Internet-based crime “experts” have noted that the Illuminati are said to perform a festive sacrifice called “The Last Bulb of the Christmas Tree” and that Boulder is the occult capital of the mountain states. Burke was also cleared by touch DNA evidence in 2008. But at the same time, there’s no other film like it, so it wasn’t easy for everyone to get their heads around what kind of film this would be. All the media interest in that and the implications of jealousy have stayed with people.”

Extra-terrestrials and a vicious owl
Most of Casting JonBenét was in the can by the time Dr Phil’s widely publicised interview with surviving brother Burke Ramsey was broadcast. “In the face of all this ambiguity and doubt how do you move on? They also received an apology from the Boulder DA’s office and from the makers of South Park, who had lampooned the couple in a 2001 episode. Died in 1997 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound before he could be questioned. The 32-year-old documentarian was “10 or 11” when JonBenét Ramsey’s body was discovered: “I was fascinated by it,” she says. There’s a lot going on in their minds. But it was really quite organic. “Generally people who live in that community made up their minds years ago. There were a lot of strange stories about sex cults that were run out of ice cream trucks. When Oliva was arrested in 2000, a photograph of JonBenét and a poem written in her honour was found among his possessions. It’s a uniquely American thing. Currently in jail on child pornography charges. They were very odd.”

Casting JonBenét, a Netflix Original, premiered at Sundance earlier this year to five-star reviews and rave notices. They live in the shadow of a case that will never be closed.”

One alarming coping mechanism quickly emerges. I’d ask about the case and immediately they got personal.
The cultural history and the mythology interested me more so than the whodunit?”

Throughout the production, the filmmaker kept an open mind, but she does have some ideas pertaining to the story’s longevity. Others have blamed a local Santa Claus impersonator or a marauding bear or wolf. There are all these YouTube clips of JonBenét spinning on a catwalk. The macabre discovery came just hours after her parents reported the child missing. A bizarre, two-and-a-half page rambling ransom note had been left in the house. “It is 20 years later and she still makes the cover of magazines. “Everybody had the same question,” recalls the filmmaker. Two decades later the unsolved murder of the child beauty queen continues to generate headlines and conspiracy theories. The idea came together from there.”

When The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul won the Short Film Jury Prize at Sundance, potential producers and financiers were quick to take notice. “Well, how do we make this into a feature? Casting JonBenét, a fascinating and unsettling new documentary, doubles as a riposte to many of these earlier, ghoulishly minded accounts. “It was a combination of a few unexpected influences. Did her enraged mother kill her for wetting the bed? Many armchair sleuths have suggested that the girl’s parents, John and Patsy, were either directly involved in her death or were part of a mysterious cover-up. Last year, various competing TV projects – JonBenét: An American Murder Mystery, The Killing of JonBenét: The Truth Uncovered, and a three-part interview on Dr Phil with Burke Ramsey, JonBenét’s brother – were unveiled to mark the 20th anniversary of her death. “It’s a weird case,” she says. “Weirder than anything in Twin Peaks. Why can’t people let it go? It has pageantry, glitz, a picture-perfect American family and a dark secret. That entertainment quality to the story makes it easy for the media to keep feeding it to us.”

Green first came to prominence with Ukraine is not a Brothel, the 2013 documentary that revealed the supposedly militant feminist group Femen was, in fact, run by an abusive ex-convict named Victor Svyatski. “The story doesn’t seem to be going anywhere,” says Casting JonBenét’s director Kitty Green (left). And I blurted out JonBenét Ramsey without even thinking about it.” That was really interesting for me. I had an image of the figure skater that I really loved. Did her nine-year-old brother fracture her skull with a flashlight? Did a pageant-stalking paedophile sneak into the house at night? On Dec 26th, 1996, the body of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey was found bludgeoned and strangled in the basement of her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado. And I heard a Louis CK joke about casting little girls for Schindler’s List on some late-night TV show. In 2015, her experimental short film The Face of Ukraine: Casting Oksana Baiul explored gender inequality by inviting little girls from all over the war-torn region to audition to play the former gold-winning figure skater and national hero. Why are we obsessed with this case in particular? It has pageantry, glitz, a picture-perfect American family and a dark secret

“Originally I was living in Ukraine and looking for a way to document the suffering of young women and children without making propaganda for either side of the conflict,” says Green.