April 7, 2011

IDA Rallies Community Support for PRESUMED GUILTY

IDA is reaching out to the documentary community for support on an important issue that affects our community.

The multiple award-winning documentary film PRESUMED GUILTY (PRESUNTO CULPABLE), shines a light on the Mexican judicial system by addressing the case of Antoñio Zuniga, wrongly sentenced to 20 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Released theatrically in mid-February 2011, the film has quickly become the highest grossing theatrical documentary in Mexican history. However, the film is currently fighting in the very courts it criticizes for the right to remain in theaters, based on a claim brought by a sole witness in the documented trial that the film violates his privacy. Judge Blanca Lobo Dominguez ordered PRESUMED GUILTY pulled from theaters pending resolution of the privacy claim. While the filmmakers were successful in filing an appeal against this action, returning the film to theaters, the film’s exhibitor, CINEPOLIS, is now being ordered to “camouflage” the face of the witness. This ruling is untenable and effectively prohibits the film from being shown in theaters, since altering and reprinting the 300 non-digital film prints would be economically disastrous.

Both the Mexican Senate and Congress have passed resolutions supporting the film. In the words of the Mexican Senate, “The film reveals startling irregularities in the preliminary investigation and criminal proceedings that in turn display the current deficiencies in the enforcement and administration of justice throughout the country.” Congress states, “This film, made by young lawyers Layda Negrete and Roberto Hernandez, reveals the disaster and disgrace of our justice system.”

IDA and a group of filmmakers have issued an open letter in support of PRESUMED GUILTY urging the Mexican courts to allow this important film to continue screening theatrically in the interests of the greater general public, and to use the opportunity provided by this film to engage their citizens in a deeper dialogue about the system that was designed to serve them. We ask you to join them by giving your support below.

April 7, 2011

Open Letter in support of the documentary film, PRESUMED GUILTY (PRESUNTO CULPABLE).

The multiple award-winning documentary film PRESUMED GUILTY (PRESUNTO CULPABLE), shines a light on the Mexican judicial system by addressing the case of Antoñio Zuniga, wrongly sentenced to 20 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Released theatrically in mid-February 2011, the film has quickly become the highest grossing theatrical documentary in Mexican history. Without question, there is clear evidence of the utmost relevance of the film to the greater population in Mexico.

However, the film is currently fighting in the very courts it criticizes for the right to remain in theaters, based on a claim brought by one sole witness in the documented trial that the film violates his privacy. This witness was filmed exclusively within the context of the public courtroom where the filmmakers had sought and obtained permission to film. With five cameras filming over 100 days, there could have been no question that filming was openly taking place.

We, the undersigned, fiercely defend the right of documentary filmmakers everywhere to practice their art and to seek and reveal truth in their films, however provocative that truth may be. We strenuously uphold the principles of free speech and freedom from censorship, including attempts at back-door censorship. The expression of the truth should never be silenced by the exercise of power by a State or system of authority that may be threatened by the content of the artistic or journalistic work.

We urge the Mexican courts to allow PRESUMED GUILTY (PRESUNTO CULPABLE) to continue screening theatrically in the interests of the greater general public, and to use the opportunity provided by this film to engage their citizens in a deeper dialogue about the system that was designed to serve them.

Eddie Schmidt
President, IDA Board of Directors

With the support of IDA's Board of Directors:
Adam Chapnick, Beth Bird, Bob Niemack, Brian Gerber, Gilda Brasch, Laurie Ann Schag, Marjan Safinia, Moises Velez, Pi Ware, Sara Hutchison, Senain Kheshgi, Steven Reich, Thomas Miller
Executive Director Michael Lumpkin 

Simon Kilmurry, Executive Producer POV
National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP)
Robert Kenner, Joan Churchill, Alex Gibney, Lucy Walker, Joe Berlinger,
Ondi Timoner, Haskell Wexler

Sean Welch, Paul Devlin, Eva Orner, Miranda Yousef, Morgan Spurlock, Leon Gast, Chris Paine, James Longley, Lucy Massie Phenix, Morgan Neville, Doug Block, Charlotte Lagarde, Amy Ziering, Colin Powers, Valentina Leduc Navarro, Hima B., Mark Landsman, Rebecca Cammisa, Martha Sosa, Johanna Demetrakas, Kurt Earl Norton, Churchill Roberts, Gordon Quinn, Violeta Ayala, Edgar Lopez, Fredrik Gertten, Mark Kendall, Alejandro Springall, B. Ruby Rich, Peter Kinoy, Greg Barker, Ken Schneider, Marcia Jarmel, Paola di Florio, Annie Roney, Kathryn Fink, Carlos A. Gutiérrez, Salvador Quiroz Ennis, Brian Newman, Marshall Curry, Judy Branfman, Cameron Yates, Kate Amend, Tia Lessin, Cecilia Real, Ignacio Gómez-Palacio, Ted Braun, Bernardo León, Luisa Ortiz Perez, Daniel Aguayo Mosqueda, Carl Deal, Janet Pierson, David Wilson, Cynthia Kane, Carlos Hagerman, Mary Ellen Sanger, Aaron Schock

Elena Fortes, Jim Kolmar, Yissel Ibarra, Sylvia Perel, José de la Cruz, Alexandra Gallardo, Emmanuel F. Herrera C., Tania Salas Hurtado, Oscar Arturo Vela Silva, Daniela German, Ricardo Alfredo Espinosa Perez, Tania Sevilla, Vanessa Reynaud, Juan Carlos Tapia Hernandez, Aaron David Fuentevilla Topete, Beth Caldarello, Daniela Alatorre Benard, Victor Daniel, Selene Martinez, Rocio Chapman, Andrea Garcia Vazquez, Edgardo Gonzalez, Yasser Ezath Berrelleza Pérez, Francia Vianney Arenas Piquero, Yesica Hernandez, Perla Velez Portillo, Mauricio Pérez Mancilla, Erika A Nuñez, Citlally Villarejo, Dalia Díaz De León, Jesús Franco, Fernando fernandez, Juan Miguel Hurtado, Resendiz Espinoza, Roy Delgado, Mayra Aurora del Rocio Gonzalez Sanchez, Ariadna Casas, Yatziri Zepeda Medina, Enrique Fabregat, Beatriz Parra Rios, Andres Ilescas, Stephen Hewitt, Rodrigo Aguirre Arias, Gustavo Munoz Castro, Alejandro Rodriguez Garcia, Javier Zaragoza, Victor Lagos, Daniel Gomez Villegas, Fany Franco Perez, Adriana Grimaldo, Ambar Zarate, Gudberto Meza, Rocio Montes, Hector Pedrajo, Jose Ignacio Zuniga Leyendecker, Beatriz Adriana Chavez Roque, Octavio Vladimir Armendariz Altamirano, Alfredo Gutierrez, Karla Ivonne Espinosa Cruz, Oscar Fernandez, Nadia Licely Bartolo, Carlos Ernesto Contreras Flores, Monika Garcia Tamayo, Vera Machon Urruchua, Ingrid Nosti Romero, Develotte Catherine, Alvaro Tejera Perez, Daniel Kandell, Hector Silva, Laura Garcia, Norma Marcela Jiménez Torres, Maribel Solache, Anat Shenker-Osorio, Fernando Ballesteros, Miguel Angel Montes De Oca Galindo, Claudia Lopez, Amos Lieberman Michaeli, Irma Guerra Ruiz, Eduardo Herrera