|Honored filmmaker has new documentary
Leonard Cox, owner of River Films
By Charlie Burroughs
Mass communication, sophomore
Leonard Cox's latest documentary deals with the issues of bullying, murder and forgiveness.
Cox is a co-producer of "The Killer Within," which debuted at the Toronto Film Festival last September. The film chronicles the revelation by Bob Bechtel, a University of Arizona environmental psychology professor, to his students and the UA community that he had killed a fellow classmate more than 50 years ago.
The story was brought to Cox's attention by a woman who had seen his documentary "Questioning Faith," produced by his River Films production company and which aired on HBO for two years, Cox said
"She had an amazing story to tell about murder and forgiveness," he said.
On the Toronto film festival Web site review, Thom Powers said, "This is a murder mystery where the question is not who, but why."
The film considers how American society has changed its treatment of murder suspects and convicted killers, Cox said. Bechtel was 22 and a student at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania when he killed an 18-year-old student in their dormitory on Jan 12, 1955, because of excessive bullying. He was declared incurably insane and institutionalized. Five years later, another evaluation determined he could be released. He then stood trial for murder but was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
"I believe if he committed the same act today, and not 50 years ago, he would be serving a life sentence," Cox said. "In so many ways, that is sad."
If he was locked away, he would have never led the life of dedication to serving others as he does today, he added.
"The Killer Within" is scheduled to be broadcast on the Discovery channel in early 2008.
Cox's previous films include "Family Name," which won best film at the Sundance Film Festival in 1997 and "Questioning Faith," called one of the top films of 2002 by CNN. He currently is executive director of communications for Columbia University.