(NEW YORK) — The chilling true crime documentary American Murder: The Family Next Door took a uniquely personal approach when telling the story of the 2018 murders of pregnant Shannan [shuh-NAN] Watts and her young daughters, Bella and Celeste, at the hands of her husband, Chris Watts.

The doc, which is currently the number-one movie streaming on Netflix in the U.S., is made up entirely of archival footage — from Shannan’s own social media posts and text messages to police body cam footage to interrogation room tapes.

Director Jenny Popplewell was granted unfiltered access by Shannan’s family and entrusted to tell the story through the victims’ eyes. She calls Shannan an “amazing archivist of her own life.”

“They were so alive on Facebook and there were so many videos and photos of them that everyone felt like they knew them,” Popplewell says of Shannan and her daughters. “So I think it’s just that was what’s so unique about this story is that if you know them and empathize with them, you are so much more connected to the story.”

Popplewell adds that she hopes the documentary can erase some of the victim blaming Shannan has been subjected to and the pain it has caused her family.

“I think it’s incredible how the reporting on [Chris] was about all his qualities and the reporting on Shannan was about all of her failings,” she says. “And it was the epitome of victim blaming and what we do to women in society — how we minimized his violence and we further victimized her.”

American Murder is streaming now on Netflix.

By Andrea Tuccillo
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