Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mexican documentary

The uglier face of justice

Banning a documentary film has resulted in even more people seeing it

 Sent behind bars with a yawn and a sneer

“PRESUMED GUILTY”, a documentary film which was released in Mexico in February and banned two weeks later, is the opposite of a whodunit. From the beginning it is clear that Antonio Zúñiga, a mild-mannered computer-repairman, had nothing to do with the murder that took place near his Mexico City market stall in 2005. Forensic tests were negative; fellow stallholders gave him an alibi; the one supposed witness could not even describe his appearance. This quietly angry film, which has been shown at film festivals over the past couple of years, is a detective story in reverse, following Mr Zúñiga’s difficult, dignified fight to overturn his conviction.

It sets out to shame Mexico’s justice system, and succeeds twice. After the prosecution witness in Mr Zúñiga’s trial made a dubious complaint that the film invaded his privacy, a judge suspended screenings on March 2nd. But the ban, seen as an attempt to suppress an embarrassment, has backfired gloriously. In the days before it kicked in, multiplexes were jam-packed. More than 1m tickets have been sold, making it by far the most successful documentary in Mexico’s history. Pirate DVD hawkers stock it alongside Hollywood blockbusters.

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