Law in Popular Culture

Judge Order May Remove Acclaimed Film on Mexico's Flawed Justice System from Mexican Theaters

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A critically lauded documentary on Mexico’s corrupt justice system may be pulled from theaters after a federal judge received a complaint from a disgruntled witness who appears in the film.

Presumed Guilty, which tells the story of an innocent man who is found guilty of murder twice, is facing legal scrutiny, triggering a debate about whether it should remain in Mexican theaters, the Washington Post reports. A federal judge ruled last Wednesday that the controversial film should be removed from theaters.

The judge made his ruling after a witness shown testifying in court in the film complained he never agreed to be on camera, adding that he faces threats and ridicule in the streets for his involvement in the project, the Washington Post says. The ruling is being contested in court this week.

“This might very well become a landmark case on freedom of speech and censorship in Mexico,” Pablo Jimenez, a lawyer for the film distributor Cinepolis told the Washington Post.

Presumed Guilty focuses on the retrial of Antonio Zuniga, who in 2005 was charged with murder, and has become a cultural phenomenon in Mexico, winning numerous prizes on the film-festival circuit. The film has even garnered unlikely support from the very people it criticizes for mishandling Zuniga’s case. Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, whose officials are exposed as questionable characters in the film, told reporters he would show the documentary for free in the Zocalo, one of Latin America’s largest plazas.

While the theatrical future of Presumed Guilty may be bleak, Zuniga’s prospects are more upbeat. He was released after filmmakers showed footage of the retrial to a higher court.

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