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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: film

Notable Criminal Justice Docs at Tribeca Film Festival

Nickie Phillips

When the most powerful lobbyist in Florida discovers that the nanny has sexually abused his daughter, he harnesses his extraordinary political power to pass the toughest sex offender laws in the nation. UNTOUCHABLE chronicles his crusade, and its impact on the lives of several of the 800,000 people forced to live under the kinds of laws he has championed.
In 2012, California amended its ‘Three Strikes’ law—one of the harshest criminal sentencing policies in the country. The passage of Prop. 36 marked the first time in U.S. history that citizens voted to shorten sentences of those currently incarcerated. Within days, the reintegration of thousands of ‘lifers’ was underway. The Return examines this unprecedented reform through the eyes of those on the front lines—prisoners suddenly freed, families turned upside down, reentry providers helping navigate complex transitions, and attorneys and judges wrestling with an untested law.
— The Return Project
Do Not Resist is an urgent and powerful exploration of the rapid militarization of the police in the United States. Opening on startling on-the-scene footage in Ferguson, Missouri, the film then broadens its scope to present scenes from across the country—a conference presentation where the value of high-end weapons technologies is presented to potential police buyers, a community that has just received its very own military-grade tank, and a SWAT team arriving at a home to execute a warrant. The cumulative effect of these vignettes paints a startling picture of the direction our local law enforcement is headed.
— Do Not Resist, Deborah Rudolph
Solitary investigates an invisible part of the American justice system: the use of isolation and segregation in US prisons, commonly known as solitary confinement.
— Tribeca Film Institute

Exclusive clip of Solitary at Deadline.

White Scripts and Black Supermen Doc

Nickie Phillips

Through interviews with prominent artists, scholars and cultural critics along with images from the comic books themselves, this film examines the degree to which early Black superheroes generally adhered to common stereotypes about Black men. From the humorous, to the offensive, early Black superheroes are critically considered.

Crime in Film/Media/Popular Culture Tweet Chat

Nickie Phillips

Join Intellect academic publishers on Thursday 7th August at 4.30pm BST/11:30am EST for a Tweet chat on the topic of Crime in Film/Media/Popular Culture.

You can chat @IntellectBooks and hashtag #IntellectChat

Some academics currently scheduled for the tweet chat are:

Louis Bayman completed his doctoral thesis on post-war Italian melodrama at King’s College, London, and is currently researching theoretical approaches to the social and aesthetic characteristics of popular cinema.

A contributor to Film International since 2005, Carl Freedman is the James F. Cassidy Professor of English at Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge). He is the author of many books and articles, including, most recently, The Age of Nixon: A Study in Cultural Power (Zero Books, 2012).

Chris Richardson is a doctoral student in Media Studies at The University of Western Ontario. He received a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University in 2007 and a Master of Arts in Popular Culture from Brock University in 2008. His work primarily focuses on intersections of popular culture, journalism and the construction of space/place. He has written on Bloc Party, Bret Easton Ellis and Kanye West, and is currently co-editing a collection on habitus and representations of ‘the hood’ with Hans A. Skott-Myhre of Brock University.

Stonewall Uprising: "It was the Rosa Parks moment"

Nickie Phillips

Stonewall Uprising:

"It was the Rosa Parks moment," says one man. June 28, 1969: NYC police raid a Greenwich Village Mafia-run gay bar, The Stonewall Inn. For the first time, patrons refuse to be led into paddy wagons, setting off a 3-day riot that launches the Gay Rights Movement.

Told by Stonewall patrons, reporters and the cop who led the raid, Stonewall Uprising recalls the bad old days when psychoanalysts equated homosexuality with mental illness and advised aversion therapy, and even lobotomies; public service announcements warned youngsters against predatory homosexuals; and police entrapment was rampant. At the height of this oppression, the cops raid Stonewall, triggering nights of pandemonium with tear gas, billy clubs and a small army of tactical police. The rest is history. (Karen Cooper, Director, Film Forum)


Go here for Nonfics 10 best documentaries about LGBT history.

And, don't miss How To Survive A Plague

Live Stream - The Internet and Free Speech: A Preview of The Internet’s Own Boy Event

Nickie Phillips

The Paley Center will host The Internet and Free Speech: A Preview of the Internet's Own Boy.   The Live Stream will be held at 8:20 pm ET/5:20 pm PT.

For information and tickets to the live event in NYC, go here.

The Internet and Free Speech: A Preview of The Internet’s Own Boy

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 6:30 pm New York

...Variety has stated that the film “may be the most emotionally devastating movie ever made about hacking and the freedom of information....

The event will include:

Brian Knappenberger, Director Christopher Soghoian, Principal Technologist, Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, ACLU Jane Hamsher, Publisher, Moderator: Tim Wu, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Director, Program on Law & Technology, Columbia Law School

Go here for more information.

Kings Park Documentary Screening, NYC

Nickie Phillips

The NYC Mental Health Film Festival is screening Kings Park - May 18 2014

On June 21, 1967, at the age of 17, Lucy Winer was committed to the female violent ward of Kings Park State Hospital following a series of failed suicide attempts. Over 30 years later, now a veteran documentary filmmaker, Lucy returns to Kings Park for the first time since her discharge. Her journey back sparks a decade-long effort to face her past and learn the story of the now abandoned institution that once held her captive. Her meetings with other former patients, their families, and the hospital staff reveal the painful legacy of our state hospital system and the crisis left by its demise.

Sunday, May 18th, 2:00 pm
Q&A with filmmakers & cast
St. Francis College
Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY
Telephone: (212) 780-1400 x7726 

For more information, go to the 10th Annual NYC Mental Health Film Festival.

Pull of Gravity Screening, NYC

Nickie Phillips

Pull of Gravity-Documentary Trailer from Jon Kaufman on Vimeo.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office – Eastern District of New York, the U.S. Department of Probation – Eastern District of New York, The Center for Court Innovation and St. Francis College are pleased to bring a screening of the documentary film PULL OF GRAVITY to Brooklyn, NY on May 5th. The film will be followed by a panel discussion with the film’s director and others involved in reintegration.

Monday May 5. 2014 St. Francis College 180 Remsen Street Brooklyn, NY 11201

Go here to RSVP and for more information.

Doc NYC Film Festival Features 1970s-era NYPD Police Corruption

Nickie Phillips

Doc NYC festival will be held November 14-21, 2013. 

Among the many documentaries of note, don't miss Ido Mizrahy's Patrolman P,  a documentary that examines NYPD corruption during the 1970s:

Investigators leaned on a flamboyant detective named Bill Phillips who, after being caught taking bribes from an infamous madam, agreed to go undercover. Phillips secured the indictments of dozens of cops, shattering the Blue Wall of Silence. But then he was charged with a crime that put him behind bars for three decades. Was it a conspiracy?

See also John Akomfrah's The Stuart Hall Project,

A complex and deeply insightful thinker about subjects as diverse as feminism, Marxist methodology, migration and American hippies, the 82-year-old, Jamaican-born Hall is one of the most inspiring voices of the post-war Left.

You can find the Guardian review here:

For the full schedule of Doc NYC, go here.

West of Memphis documentary details the case of the "West Memphis 3"

Nickie Phillips

"West of Memphis" examines the case of Damian Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, also known as the "West Memphis 3."  Freed in August of 2011 on a Alford plea, the men served 18 years in prison for the murder of three second grade boys. The three men have long maintained their innocence and were convicted despite the lack of physical evidence linking them to the crime. The New York Times describes the plea as a

legally awkward deal that had them declaring their innocence but pleading guilty to the murders while the State of Arkansas essentially admitted the evidence against them was weak but possibly viable.

Read more about the documentary from NPR here.

West Of Memphis, in its final 25 minutes or so, gives a more thorough accounting of how the deal that freed the three was ultimately done, and in particular, lingers on the difficulties that Baldwin faced in deciding whether to plead guilty to something he has always insisted he didn't do in order to get himself out of jail — and in order to ensure Echols wouldn't be executed. After spending 20 years in prison, the idea of refusing an offer that would get you out is more than many of us can wrap our heads around, but as it's explained here, his hesitation seems quite logical.

Roger Ebert suggests,

If you only see one [documentary on the case], this is the one to choose, because it has the benefit of hindsight.

Kate Erbland's review is here.

For more on the soundtrack with performances by social activists Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, and more, go here.

Echols discusses his book "Life After Death" on C-SPAN2 BTV:

"West of Memphis"  is available on DVD on August 6th.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Nickie Phillips

Get tickets for the Human Rights Watch film festival here. Go here for a schedule of all the films showing at the NYC festival. "Anita" is sold out, but tickets remain for other shows.

Born this Way trailer

Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer trailer

99% The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film trailer

An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story

Broken on All Sides Documentary: Racial Inequalities and Mass Incarceration

Nickie Phillips

Matthew Pillischer's documentary "Broken on All Sides" takes a critical look at racial inequalities and mass incarceration in the United States.

The documentary centers around the theory put for­ward by many, and most recently by Michelle Alexander (who appears in the movie), that mass incarceration has become "The New Jim Crow." That is, since the rise of the drug war and the explosion of the prison population, and because discretion within the sys­tem allows for arrest and prosecution of people of color at alarmingly higher rates than whites, pris­ons and criminal penal­ties have become a new ver­sion of Jim Crow.

If you are in the NYC area, the documentary will screen in on March 6th (Columbia University) and March 9th (Riverside Church). For more details on these and other screenings around the country, go here.

Amour: Family, Care Giving and Mercy Killing Go to the Oscars

Nickie Phillips

Amour (2012):  Family, Care Giving and Mercy Killing Go to the Oscars 1

Guest Post by Demetra M. Pappas

That the title of the Oscar-nominated French film, Amour (2012), is the French word for “love,” sets up this fact-based film about an aging 80-something-year-old couple, in which wife Anne Laurent (played by Emmanuelle Riva) falls ill and husband Georges Laurent (Jean-Louis Trintignant) engages in long-term caregiving and ultimately engages in mercy killing of Anne, who suffered from heart disease and repeated, worsening strokes. No, this is not a spoiler alert – in the opening scenes, the audience is treated to a CSI-style arrival of policing authorities on the scene of a homicide.  The events depicted are factually based upon events that took place in screenwriter/director Michael Haneke’s family.  The work has been awarded thus far with awards from Cannes to Bafta, and at the 2013 Oscars, the film has been nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Emmanuelle Riva), Best Original Screenplay (Michael Haneke), Best Director (Michael Haneke) and Best Foreign Language Film.

I could tell you that his may well be the best film made in the past 20 years, as my friend Alex Kustanovich, a former screenwriter, told me after he saw it in France over the Christmas break.  Or I could repeat the persnickety (but seemingly correct) comment made by the friend I attended the film’s screening with, herself a scriptwriter and artist, made, to the effect that the Isabelle Huppert (as daughter Eva Laurent) wore the same shoes in all scenes (my friend’s explanation – the scenes were likely all shot the same day, and the relatively low budget film purchased different outfits, but used the same footwear, rather than an oft-used mechanism of similar colors/styles, to show character personality;  my own explanation is that I wear the same pair of sneakers every day, unless on pain of penalty).  This I shall not do, although their comments were received by me, a former criminal lawyer turned legal studies academic criminologist and sociologist, with great interest.

Instead, I am going to write about the film through my own (academic) eyes.  Like screenwriter Haneke, I had a family matter which influenced my life and my work – for over 20 years, my father had Huntington’s Disease, an early midlife onset and relentlessly degenerative neurological disorder (now popularized in discussions in a storyline in the television show, House), which drew me to the questions of medical euthanasia and assisted suicide. Before anyone assumes that I am automatically in favor, I have written at length, in an introduction to a piece referred to as the “Bitter Pill,” about the experience I had when my partner, in CCU during the latter part of my year doing my master’s in Criminal Justice Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, nearly died, and I balked at his demand that I do to him what I had wanted done for me,* a game changing experience, to be sure, as the surviving partner wryly comments.  (Yet another game changer was when I assertively underwent genetic testing in an early study at  London’s Institute for Neurology, only to learn that the illness I had assumed would be killing me by my 40s was nowhere to be found in my genetic makeup, thus making me question whether I was a suitable person to write of my family illness, since resolved with an answer in the affirmative, after discussion with sociological, legal and biomedical advisors and, of course, the people in my life).

Thus it is that in watching and contemplating Amour, I found myself looking back at sets of families whom I had studied in my doctoral and subsequent academic work.  Family members in medical euthanasia cases, such as Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian (whose trials I attended and compared in my PhD for the LSE) did not view themselves as secondary victims (the decedent being the primary victim), but, on the whole, as family members grateful for a service that ended the suffering of their beloved.  Some became pro-assisted suicide and medical euthanasia activists, such as the daughter of one of Kevorkian’s patients/victims/clients, who not only went on the lecture circuit, but who told me in an interview that she took instruction (after her mother’s own death) as to how to help end the life/suffering of others, by, among other things, hoarding Seconal (in the years before Oregon and Washington State allowed for this as a legitimate medical prescription to effect death with dignity for patients with imminently terminal illnesses, who were enduringly requesting that their lives be medically ended by physician assisted suicide).

In the end, this film is an extension of true-life end-of-life film making such as that of The Sea Inside (2004).  However, unlike that film, in which “many hands” were employed to effect the death of quadriplegic Ramon Sampedro (who unsuccessfully fought and sued in Spain so as to be able to receive medical euthanasia and “the right to die with dignity”), in Amour, there was unquestionably only one set of hands involved in Anne’s death – that of Georges.  It was an interesting, and perhaps unsatisfying (to the American viewer) writing and directorial choice that the audience is not shown or told (via after notes) what happened to Georges after he takes Anne’s life.  Did he commit suicide? Was he arrested and prosecuted, as was Georgia’s Carol Carr (2002), who shot and killed her two 40-something year old sons as they lay side by side, with advanced Huntington’s Disease, in a nursing home in Georgia (after which her felony murder and malice murder indictment was reduced to assisted suicide, effectively with time served and felony probation – as long as she did not live with her surviving son, who also had Huntington’s Disease)? Was he simply left to live out the remainder of his life (in Amour, there is a suggestion that he starved himself to death, which might perhaps be viewed as either the consequence of extreme grief or as suicidal, after he took Anne’s life, though the audience does not see Georges when the police break into the apartment)  in mourning for his beloved wife, whom he cared for through surgeries and strokes until she was end-stage, all-the-while honoring her wish that she not be placed in a hospital (which I liken to the case of Merian Frederick, one of the women for whose assisted suicide Jack Kevorkian was tried and acquitted in 1996)?  Did he ultimately live and find a bereavement support group (such as “Survivors,” as the Kevorkian family members call themselves)?  And, conversely, assuming that one agrees with the mercy killing (which I neither endorse nor condemn here) did Georges “wait too long,” as one might wonder in the wake of the January 13, 2013 euthanasia of middle-aged deaf twin Belgian brothers, who were going blind and horrified that they would never see one another again, thus choosing the time and manner of their deaths, which were lawfully effected by hospital medical staff.

Haneke’s central question is how to manage the suffering of someone you love (and Georges does so heroically and stoically through heart illness, two strokes and severe degeneration to near persistent vegetative state).  In seeking to answer this, he opens another – how to manage and support the needs of the caregiver who is experiencing social isolation to the point of social death, along with the needs of caring for someone in escalating medical need.

* "Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Are Doctors' Duties when Following Patients' Orders a Bitter Pill to Swallow?", in G. Howarth and P. Jupp (eds.), Contemporary Issues in the Sociology of Death, Dying and Disposal, Macmillan, Inc. (1996).

Demetra M. Pappas holds a JD from Fordham Law School, an MSc in Criminal Justice Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a PhD from the Department of Law and the Department of Sociology of the London School of Economics.  Her doctoral dissertation was entitled, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack ‘Dr. Death’ Kevorkian.  This ethnographic study had an entire chapter devoted to issues pertaining to families and interviews of family members of decedents (whether denominated patients, victims or clients).  Her first book, Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America :The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press,  2012) (100 year study of US and UK  doctors prosecuted for medical euthanasia/assisted suicide and role of media, in which she pointedly takes a neutral stance, and invites readers to draw their own conclusions) came out in September 2012.  She is currently on the faculty of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named SGA Faculty Member of the Year in 2011/2012. 

"Zero Dark Thirty" and Depictions of Torture

Nickie Phillips

Katherine Bigelow’s film Zero Dark Thirty has generally received rave reviews and is likely to be among the 2013 Oscar contenders. However, the film has received criticism for its depiction of torture as a useful, primary tactic in finding Bin Laden.

In fact, even the acting director of the C.I.A. finds the depictions problematic:

“Zero Dark Thirty,” Mr. Morell said it “creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding Bin Laden. That impression is false.”

Three U.S. Senators have also gone on record in opposition to the depiction of torture in the film, requesting a "disclaimer" from the filmmakers.

In a letter to studio chief Michael Lynton, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain(R-Ariz.) wrote that the movie, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, improperly establishes a connection between "enhanced interrogations" and key intelligence.

Alex Gibney, director of the documentary Taxi To The Dark Side, calls the film a "stylistic masterwork" yet “fundamentally reckless” for its portrayal of torture. For his take on the responsibility of the filmmakers to portray the truth about the efficacy of torture, go here.

For Alicia Cohn's article in The Hill, go here.

Go here for the On the Media podcast episode featuring Peter Bergen, journalist and national security analyst, discussing the film."

Go here for the Guardian article: "The truth about Zero Dark Thirty: This torture fantasy degrades us all."

For a more nuanced interpretation, see Andrew O'Hehir's article in Salon:

I do want to suggest, however, that the hot debate about Bigelow’s likely Oscar nominee opens up all kinds of other overlapping questions of fact and interpretation – and also about the uses and limitations of art, and the powerful responses it provokes – that do not yield clear answers.

Suzanne Wasserman to Speak at SFC on "Thunder in Guyana"

Nickie Phillips


St. Francis College will host a special lecture and Q&A with Suzanne Wasserman When: Tuesday, October 9 at 11:10am in Room 4202

Where: St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY

Suzanne Wasserman is a historian, author, professor and award winning filmmaker. Her feature film “Thunder in Guyana” a documentary about Janet Jagan, her cousin, and American woman who became the president of Guyana. A graduate of New York University who received her Ph.D. in American History, she is currently the Director of the Gotham Center of New York City History at the CUNY Graduate Center. Topics covered in her lectures and courses include New York City History, The Great Depression, museum studies, women studies, and cultural history.

This speaking engagement is part of the Fall 2012 Senior Citizen Lecture Series: Lectures By & About Progressive & Radical Women


Indie Film “Compliance” stirring controversy

Nickie Phillips

Crime and pop culture converge again in the new indie film “Compliance,” inspired by the true crime events of a young woman working at a fast food restaurant who was sexually assaulted when her boss strip-searched her based on the demands of a man on the phone impersonating a police officer.

The story, though inspired by true events, may at first seem to strain credibility. However, this Courier-Journal article points out the obvious link between compliance of the workers and the Stanley Milgram obedience studies of the 1960s.

Ultimately, the victim was awarded millions in a lawsuit settlement. David Stewart was arrested and charged with impersonating a police officer, soliciting sodomy, and soliciting sexual abuse. He was later acquitted.

The film is sparking some controversy and, according to this Village Voice article, prompted one movie-goer to cry out “Rape is not entertainment!”

Time ran the headline "Sundance Torture Porn" in their review of the film, comparing the director Craig Zobel to Michael Haneke, a director most known for getting under the skin of the viewers with films such as Funny Games and Cache.

While it may seem an odd topic for a feature-length film, it's probably no more bizarre than the “pizza bomber” feature film, also inspired by true crime events, released last year.

Read interview with "Compliance" director, "On uncomfortable Art and the Cops' Approval," here.

The film "Compliance" is now showing in limited release.