Wednesday, September 15, 2004

10e Chambre, instants d'audiences (The 10th District Court, Moments of Trials)

10e Chambre is a documentary focusing on about 12 cases or so in the Paris courtroom of justice Michele Bernard-Requin. According to the festival guide, documentarian Raymond Depardon was apparently the first person to be allowed to film inside a courtroom, and captured 169 different cases, which were reduced down to a handful for the final cut. It also mentions that this film provides a nice bookend to one of Depardon's other films, Delits Flagrants, which showed suspects being interviewed by deputy public prosecutors.

10e Chambre is an interesting look at one part of the French justice system, and shows the defendant in each case answering the questions of the judge, the prosecutor, and their own lawyer, and making their own statements as well. Two cases are often shown back-to-back before the judge's verdicts are rendered. The cases include drunk driving, theft, harassment, fighting, civil cases, illegal immigration, and carrying prohibited weapons, to name a few.

There is no commentary; the film simply lets the participants talk for themselves. It shows people unwilling to take responsibility of their actions, while others seem caught up in an inescapable web of societal problems. Occasionally, a defendant will dispense with a lawyer, and usually go on to prove the saying, "a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client". Although some of the actual defense lawyers aren't much better.

The star of the film is the presiding judge, Michele Bernard-Requin. An intelligent and sharp woman, she has to cut through conflicting testimony and often outright lies, to get to the truth in a very short period of time. Some of the funniest moments come watching her reaction as defendants give self-incriminating testimony, followed by wild justifications for their actions.

The only flaw I would find with the film is that we do not see the verdicts rendered for the final two cases shown in the movie. The outcomes may have been mentioned in text that appears before the final credits roll, however, this text was not translated or subtitled, so I never did figure out what happened to those people.

Still, the film provided an intriguing look at one small part of the justice system in modern France, and makes one consider how the people featured in the movie got there in the first place and how the system deals with them.


My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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