Justice: (Justica)

Directed by Maria Ramos

102 minutes / Color
Portuguese / English subtitles
Release: 2005
Copyright: 2004

This fascinating feature documentary, winner of several international prizes, offers an intimate look inside the Brazilian justice system, closely observing the everyday work of attorneys, judges, prosecutors and other legal professionals, as well as the defendants passing through the system-a young man caught with a stolen car, another charged with complicity in petty theft, and a teenager arrested for possession of drugs and weapons.

The film follows each case through its various stages, showing the defendants' meetings with public defenders, the reading of the charges and questioning of the defendants by a judge, scenes of their detention in grossly overcrowded cells, and supervised meetings with family members. JUSTICE (Justiça) also extends its view beyond the courtrooms and jails to reveal the personal lives of a judge, a public defender, and the families of the accused.

film still

The film's straightforward observational approach, lacking any voice-over narration, gradually succeeds in revealing a broader social picture, one involving clear implications of police corruption, an oppressive judicial system that basically seems designed to punish the poor for petty crimes, and a penal system characterized by horrifically inhumane conditions. In a very compelling way, JUSTICE reveals the legal system as a sort of public theater dramatizing the social relations and power structures of Brazilian society at large.

"Remarkable in the degree of depth it offers to the subject… utilizes an observational style in order to give its subjects the space to exhibit their own problems, overexposing them to the camera in order to uncover deeper levels of inequality… JUSTICE offers a powerful argument for the revival of direct cinema as a filmic strategy for representing Brazilian prison culture in a deeper, more systematic manner."—Stuart Davis, Anthrosource

"In the classroom, Ramos's patient dissection of Rio de Janeiro's justice system can serve as the basis for discussion of various topics, all of them touching on justice and inequality: barriers to legal equity, incarceration as social control, and the incentive structures that shape young people's choices in poor Brazilian communities."—Adriana Abdenur, The Americas

"Recommended!"—Educational Media Reviews Online

"Boldly eschewing interviews and narration, director Maria Ramos lets her camera tell the story... With its resolutely unobtrusive visual style, JUSTICE works as a parody of documentary objectivity…"—The Village Voice

"Already a master of the objective eye, Ramos uses her unobtrusive camera to uncover the frustrations inherent in a vastly imbalanced society where hope is scarce and the future is dim."—Variety

"★★★½ ... An acute observational documentary…quietly assumes a gathering, almost poetic force…a remarkably controlled work."—Boxoffice.com

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Select Accolades

  • 2006 Award of Merit in Film, Latin American Studies Association
  • Grand Prize, 2004 Visions du Réel
  • Best Film, 2004 Copenhagen Documentary Festival
  • Best Film, 2004 Bordeaux Festival of Women in Cinema
  • Grand Prize, 2004 Taiwan Documentary Festival
  • Special Mention of The Jury, 2004 Lisbon Documentary Festival
  • 2004 Rotterdam Film Festival
  • 2005 Human Rights Watch Film Festival


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