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The Reeler Blog

Festival in Law

Jeremy Irons in Reversal of Fortune, screening at the Fordham Law Film Festival with lawyer Alan Dershowitz in attendance (Photo: MGM)

By Ben Gold

Have you ever had that feeling after you see a movie -- maybe a kung fu movie -- and all you want afterwards is for someone to mug you on the way out of the theater so you can do the moves you’ve been practicing in your mind since the film ended? Now imagine if you could listen to a kung fu expert talk about how those moves were done. And that kung fu was... the law.

That’s essentially what you get at the Fordham Law Film Festival. From Oct. 19-25, the FLFF screens one film per night, each offering a different view of America’s legal system and accompanied by a specific guest speaker. Little has changed from last year’s inaugural fest, said its director Thane Rosenbaum. "We’re endlessly interested in that fundamental question of what does the artist see in the law that is absent from the law. What lessons can be learned from watching a film about the legal system that we miss from experiencing the legal system first hand?"

As such, the festival exhibits films from a variety of genres, like the classic To Kill a Mockingbird (Oct. 23) and the HBO documentary Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later (Oct. 19). Of course, Rosenbaum noted, “there’s no accounting for finding the right person to match with the film”, an essential factor of the festival's success considering that in most cases the selections are not new to viewers. "The goal is really the post-screening conversation," Rosenbaum said. "We’ll have 200 or so people ask questions and make comments about their experience with the legal systems and how what they’ve just heard or seen reaffirms or contradicts it."

To that end, Norman Siegel, former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, is paired with The People vs. Larry Flynt on Oct. 25. Other evenings offer not only expert panelists, but personal commentary as well, such as the Oct. 24 True Believer screening, which boasts an appearance by lawyer Ron Kuby, whose life is fictionalized in the film, and Reversal of Fortune, (Oct. 21) featuring Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who defended convicted murderer Claus von Bulow in the appeal on which the film is based. "Pairings like those really make this film festival distinctive because you have people with very personal views about films that were largely connected to their lives,” Rosenbaum said.

This dynamic turns the FLFF into something like a symposium, using the films as a way to better understand our real-life legal system, and hopefully, allow viewers to take what they’ve learned into their own lives -- a "forum to provide a kind of moral clarity and closure," to hear Rosenbaum tell it. Or, if you will, a sharp lesson in how the moves are done.

Posted at October 18, 2007 11:22 AM

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