Film: “Presumed Guilty”

Mack and I were invited to attend the second Doc Soup screening that took place at the Citadel’s Zeidler Hall on Thursday night. Global Visions Film Festival helped to bring Doc Soup to Edmonton – a monthly film series that showcases both local and international documentaries.

The night’s film was Presumed Guilty, a documentary exposing the ills of the Mexican justice system through one man’s struggle to prove his innocence. José Antonio Zuñiga was arrested and jailed for a homicide he was never proven to have committed, and as the title of the film alludes, in a system where a conviction matters more than justice, his subsequent retrial was for show only, and did not result in a verdict change. It was a minor miracle that the cameras were allowed to film the retrial however, and I have to say, the “face off” portion of the footage was fascinating. The defendant (behind a set of bars) was able to literally face his accusers – in this case, the witness and the case detectives – and ask them questions face to face.

Antonio appealed the guilty verdict, and was able to secure an eventual acquittal from the appellate judges, but in the process, spent nearly 900 days in jail.

Roberto Hernandez, one of the two people behind the film, actually attended the screening, and conducted a Q & A at the end of the film. He is a lawyer by trade, and continued to reiterate his lack of filmmaking skill and expertise – “I just edited until I cried,” he said.  He was also extremely modest regarding the impact he has made on reforming the Mexican justice system – it turned out his previous documentary The Tunnel, which he screened for the country’s legislators, was a catalyst for a constitutional amendment passed last year which institutes a presumption of innocence.

The next Doc Soup screening is Junior, on February 4. For $10, it’s sure to be a worthwhile evening of food for thought. Thanks again to Ted Kerr for the invitation!

Adam also attended and blogged about the film – check out his thoughts here.

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