Documentaries could improve trials

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Documentaries could improve trials

Jun 13, 2018

Zachary Edwards | Student

Lawyers and filmmakers operate under similar guidelines in their respective occupations. Lawyers must frame their argument to be favorable for their client, similarly, filmmakers must frame their content to portray what they want, how they want. Filmmakers and screenwriters have moved more toward creating true stories. Screenplays are taking liberty with real-life events, which can get dangerous in a culture where media literacy is relatively low. Many viewers of this content take these films and television shows as the complete truth, which does not make the content bad, it is just dangerous to skew the truth and present it or let it be interpreted as fully true.

Documentaries are what the United States culture needs to improve the trial process. Narrative films that portray real-life trials will take liberties to raise the dramatic value of the final product. Taxi to the Dark Side is a 2007 documentary that discusses the injustices in the interrogation and imprisonment practices of alleged terrorists during the War in Afghanistan, through the lens of the innocent death of an Afghani taxi driver named Dilawar. The Thin Blue Line is a 1988 documentary that investigates the wrongful conviction of Randall Dale Adams. Director Errol Morris uncovers the facts that the jury and police department was so eager to convict Adams that they stacked evidence against him and pushed dishonest testimony in order to do so.

Media creators have a huge responsibility to their audience and the world because they are the gatekeepers for the flow of information to the public. Media creators' opinions become

the opinions of the public due to many viewers taking content for what it is worth. All content needs to be viewed with a grain of salt as biases and the creator's own opinions will always work their way into a piece of media.

Documentaries take a journalistic approach to a real-life situation, relying on real footage of the characters, rather than relying on the screenplay written by a single person. Justice-seeking documentaries are able to place a check on the legal system when the biases and opinions of juries and judges come into conflict with the facts of the trial.

Zachary Edwards, a student in Jon Pfeiffer's Spring 2018 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response being asked how his major, IMC, could improve the trial process.

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