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Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: In Search of the Truth

Police dramas lure us into the excitement and intelligence of the chase. Yet, once the suspect […] Read more

Police dramas lure us into the excitement and intelligence of the chase. Yet, once the suspect is caught, the cops’ task eventually gives way to the deliberative and thoughtful pace of the prosecution and defense, the rituals of the courtroom.

Major directors turn away from guns and cars to explore the many facets of proof as well as the ways in which personal conflicts intersect with deliberations about concrete crimes and more abstract concepts of truth, judgment and justice. It is no longer the cowboy cop or the masterful criminal who keeps us on the edge of our seats. Courtroom dramas include, instead, a wide host of potential players – the attorneys, the judge, the juries, the witnesses, the defendants and even family plaintiffs, whose roles are refracted across systems and cultures in this compelling docket. Issues as pressing as generational anger, racism, sexism, violence, family and political torture. And one long take on a conflictive jury fighting its way to the truth.

There are rituals to every trial which guide us but the characters also take their work home – whether haunted by questions raised and unanswered or stymied by the logistics of the trial. Most of all, courtroom dramas create a serious cinema of multiple layers of meaning, where the compelling narrative arc of a central story always proves less than the lesson – indeed, the moral – of the story as a whole. Movies honed by words of deliberation, the character of the players and the inevitability of judgment, that will challenge us as well before we put the trial behind us. Time to get off the mean streets and into the courtroom as a summer of crime and punishment continues. See you in court!

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