Historically, the emergence of the trial film genre coincided with the development of motion pictures. In fact, one of the very first feature-length films, Falsely Accused!, released in 1908, was a courtroom drama. Since then, this niche genre has produced such critically acclaimed films as Twelve Angry Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Anatomy of a Murder. The popularity and success of these films can be attributed to the fundamental similarities of filmic narratives and trial proceedings. Both seek to construct a “reality” through storytelling and representation and in so doing persuade the audience or jury to believe what they see.
Trial Films on Trial: Law, Justice, and Popular Culture is the first book to focus exclusively on the special significance of trial films for both film and legal studies. The contributors to this volume offer a contemporary approach to the trial film genre. Despite the fact that the medium of film is one of the most pervasive means by which many citizens receive come to know the justice system, these trial films are rarely analyzed and critiqued. The chapters cover a variety of topics, such as how and why film audiences adopt the role of the jury, the narrative and visual conventions employed by directors, and the ways mid-to-late-twentieth-century trial films offered insights into the events of that period.
Introduction: The Pleasures and Possibilities of Trial Films by Austin Sarat, Jessica Silbey, Martha Merrill Umphrey
Chapter 1. Law and the Order of Popular Culture by Carol J. Clover
Chapter 2. Knowing It When We See It: Realism and Melodrama in American Film Since The Birth of a Nation by Ticien Marie Sassoubre
Chapter 3. Reasonable Doubts, Unspoken Fears: Reassessing the Trial Film’s “Heroic Age” by Barry Langford
Chapter 4. Disorder in Court: Representations of Resistance to Law in Trial Film Dramas by Norman W. Spaulding
Chapter 5. “I Am Here. I Was There.”: Haunted Testimony in The Memory of Justice and The Specialist by Katie Model
Chapter 6. The Appearance of Truth: Juridical Reception and Photographic Evidence in Standard Operating Procedure by Jennifer Petersen