Release Date: October 18th, 2006 (Film Forum) by First Run/Icarus.
Directed by Maria Ramos.
In Portuguese with subtitles.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the Brazilian judicial system in a Rio de Janeiro court.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Justice gives a fascinating observation of the Brazilian court system through the experiences of a judge, three accused young boys, and an attorney. One teenager is accused of steeling a car which he claims belongs to a friend of his. Not surprisingly, he also claims that he had no idea that the car was actually stolen and that the drugs found on the floor belonged to the three girls who were with him. He sure has a lot of explaining to do to his pregnant girlfriend who listens to his explanation in the small court. Another boy is accused of petty theft; another is accused of drug and weapon possession—he claims that he was just simply flying a kite alone, but the police know that kite-flying represents a signal to warn gang members that the authorities are nearby. It’s apparent that these boys come from the slums of Rio de Janeiro (a.k.a. the favelas) where violence occurs day by day and they could get in trouble for ratting on a gang member. By incorporating scenes from the judge’s and the attorney’s home as well as the packed jail cells, director Maria Ramos does a excellent job of showing humanizing the accused, the judge, and the attorney so that you get a brief glimpse of what it’s like to be in their shoes. The lack of narration, interviews, and a music score helps to focus your undivided attention on their powerful and compelling daily experiences in and out of court.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: The title “Justice” is quite ironic given Maria Ramos’ observations about the judicial system in Rio de Janeiro. These boys’ social and economic conditions lead them to a life of crime without much hope for escape. One of the accused has been in trouble with the law before. Also, the living conditions in their jail cells look inhumane and simply disgusting—an accused teenager begs not to be sent there because of health problems, but the judge declines. In a particularly infuriating scene, a new, less understanding judge replaces an older one and convicts a boy without the same attention to his case. Clearly, this is not even a judicial system to begin with given all of the inconsistent and unjust treatments.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: Powerful, fascinating and thoroughly compelling.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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