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Christina Fontana recounts scariest moments shooting true-crime doc ‘Relentless’

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Documentary filmmaker Christina Fontana says she has devoted more than a decade of her life to a dogged pursuit of the truth in a bizarre and multi-faceted case involving a woman from Hannibal, MissDocumentary filmmaker Christina Fontana says she has devoted more than a decade of her life to a dogged pursuit of the truth in a bizarre and multi-faceted case involving a woman from Hannibal, Missouri, who disappeared in 2009. Fontana’s more than 400 hours of field investigation footage and video diaries shot over 11 years form the basis of “Relentless,” a six-part true crime series streaming on Discovery+.

“Relentless” premiered on June 27 and dropped one episode per week through July 18.

Fontana told The Maine Edge she first became aware of the case in 2010 when she met the family of Christina Whittaker, a 21-year-old who went missing in 2009 after a night of bar-hopping in her hometown.  The interview was initially intended for a film project focusing on the families of the missing, Fontana said, but it became her sole focus after she peeled back the layers of the missing woman’s story and found herself in a world of drug operations and organized crime.ouri, who disappeared in 2009. Fontana’s more than 400 hours of field investigation footage and video diaries shot over 11 years form the basis of “Relentless,” a six-part true crime series streaming on Discovery+.

The Maine Edge: How did you become so obsessed with this story?

Christina Fontana: In 2007, I was working on a documentary about what it was like for families of the missing. While working on that film, I met the family of Christina Whittaker in the summer of 2010. I was really taken with the passion of Christina’s mother and her tenacity for trying to find her daughter. She also had active leads. They believe they tracked Christina 200 miles from their hometown in Hannibal, MO, to a 20-block radius where there had been many reported sightings. I wanted to help so I jumped in.

The Maine Edge: The trailer for “Relentless” alludes to corruption and organized crime. How does all of that fit into Christina Whittaker’s case?

Christina Fontana: What’s really intriguing about this case is that on the surface, it seems like you have a case of a girl who went missing because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. As I dug deeper into this girl’s life, and in the many secrets in this town where she grew up, all of a sudden I found myself in a world of drug operations, organized crime, police corruption and murder.

The Maine Edge: One scene shows us the moment you received a tip suggesting the local police department may have had something to do with Christina’s disappearance. What can you tell us about that accusation?

Christina Fontana: I’m not going to go into too much detail about that yet, but we do reveal it in episodes 5 and 6, which are coming. There are numerous allegations of drug operations tied to police officers and inappropriate connections between some officers and young girls in town. This lead gave us something that ends up corroborating with documents that prove what they are saying is correct. We have some major revelations in the last two episodes.

The Maine Edge: Did you feel that your life was in danger as you uncovered some of the darker details of this story?

Christina Fontana: Hannibal is a picturesque town on the Mississippi River, but I felt a sense of paranoia every time I went into town. There were a couple of times where I felt we were being followed, in fact there was a gentleman who drove his car right in front of ours and was staring us down. That actually happened off-camera. Everything in “Relentless” unfolds in real time. I used these diary cams because I wanted the audience to feel what I was feeling in the moment and how confusing and scary it was. All of those things are connected to the organized crime element in town, and it really got scary for me. I felt very unsafe at times but kept pushing forward.

The Maine Edge: There is a substantial reward for information that leads to solving the case. Is it your hope that this documentary will help bring that information out into the open?

Christina Fontana: Just in the last 48 hours, I’ve been fielding all of these calls from people seeing others brave enough to speak in the documentary series. My hope is it will continue to inspire people to come forward with information now that they know they’re not alone.

The Maine Edge: What does Christina’s family think happened to her?

Christina Fontana: Her family believes she was taken against her will the night she left the bar. She was asking people for a ride home. She left at 10:30 after she’d gotten into an argument with a staff member. She was then seen close to 1:00 a.m. at another bar. She came in visibly upset and the bartender asked if she needed a ride home. She said she was OK and ducked out the back door. Her phone was found on the ground about a block away from the bar.

There have been rumors that Christina was picked up and taken into sex trafficking, and that she is being held against her will in Peoria, Illinois. Those are the leads the family brought me into and still believe to this day is what happened to her.

Last modified on Tuesday, 20 July 2021 04:42

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