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Presumed Guilty: Mexico Bans Film About Flawed Legal System

Mexico City judge pulls from theaters a controversial documentary about legal system after a witness featured in the film files a complaint.

EYES INSIDE - LATIN AMERICA

It is a fitting irony that Nicolás Vale, director of the highly acclaimed documentary "Presumed Guilty," an account about the flaws of Mexico's legal system, has wound up fighting his own court battle to allow the film to be shown in Mexican movie houses. This week, a federal judge in Mexico City ordered the pulling of Presunto Culpable from all cinemas across the country after a witness featured in the documentary about a murder case said it was filmed without his permission.

The producers, and a range of commentators in Mexico, have slammed Judge Blanca Lobo Domínguez's decision, calling it censorship and an attack on press freedom in the guise of protecting the rights of one person. Mexican judiciary officials denied the allegation.

The witness featured in the documentary, Víctor Daniel Reyes Bravo, who changed his story about a 2005 murder investigation, complained in a lawsuit that the film has ruined his life.

The 88-minute documentary describes how José Antonio Zuñiga Rodríguez was plucked off the streets of Mexico City by police officers and accused of murdering a man he had never met. After a flawed prosecution, Zuñiga was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and the only witness, Reyes Bravo, who initially accused him, has come forward and changed his testimony.

"Presumed Guilty" was lauded at film festivals in Los Angeles and London last year, and more than 400,000 people in Mexico have seen the documentary since its release on February 18, which may make it the most successful Mexican documentary ever made, reports AFP.

Vale, who produced the documentary along with Martha Sosa and Yissel Ibarra, told El Universal of Mexico City that the entire country must see it: "so that the judicial process can be changed."

Lawmakers from different political parties said the judge's decision was "an evident act of censorship," and have invited the producers to show their film in the Senate chamber.

The country's film and media commission said it would appeal the judge's decision, which it called "confusing, ambiguous, and murky." And Héctor Villarreal Ordóñez, the government official in chage of media, said that the documentary would continue to be shown at movie houses until the judge clarifies her order.


Martin Delfín

Worldcrunch

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