A fascinating documentary that I saw a couple of months ago, while it was premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, on a subject that I wouldn’t have ever even considered as a documentary topic; needless to say, I really appreciated, was informed and even entertained by it.
Titled Gideon’s Army, from African American filmmaker Dawn Porter,
the film tells the story of a group of the idealistic public defenders
working in the Deep South, and the man who brought them together to
train, mentor and turn into lawyers.
This is Gideon’s Army:
In 1963, the landmark Supreme Court decision Gideon v.
Wainwright guaranteed all defendants facing imprisonment the right to a
lawyer. Now, every year millions of Americans facing trial rely on fewer
than 15,000 public defenders, and the country’s justice system hangs in
the balance. Gideon’s Army confronts this crisis head-on, tracking a
group of young southern public defenders hell-bent on protecting the
sanctity of human liberty. Not
only are they juggling hundreds of cases independently, but their
offices don’t have adequate resources, and their salaries barely cover
personal expenses – including 6-figure law-school debts. How long can
they keep working in a constant state of emergency? Will they find the
moral support to sustain this higher calling? And if not, what happens
to our democracy?
Dawn Porter’s resume includes executive producing feature films, was director of standards and practices at ABC News and vice president of standards at A&E. She was also an attorney at ABC Television
before beginning her film career, so her background seemingly informs
her filmmaking, which should make for a comprehensive study here.
It’s been touring the film festival circuit since its Sundance debut, and is now set to air on HBO on July 1, meaning more of you will be able to see it as well.
I reviewed the film in January, which you can read HERE.
Check out the trailer for the film embedded below: