Review: False Confessions (LA Film Festival)

Title: False Confessions
Rating: NR
Director: Katrine Philp
Starring: Jane Fisher-Byrialsen
Runtime: 1 hr 31 mins

What It Is: Civil Rights lawyer Jane Fisher-Byrialsen stepped away from being a public defender in order to help bring justice to those wrongfully imprisoned due to their false confessions. During the course of the documentary she highlights four cases involving wrongfully coerced confessions, one of them with one shot left to free the convicted.

What We Think: This film is a highlight of one of the many injustices the United States’ legal system practices. And while there is probably an awareness of people giving false confessions, this film helps us to try and understand why someone would “throw their life away” for a crime they didn’t commit. The film does a good job of overlapping each case, so that the audience can understand these are not isolated incidents. A lot of social justice documentaries try to find a way to make the audience relate to the subjects, often using phrases such as “well what if this was your sister” or your mother, neighbor and so forth. This film instead presents these stories, connects the dots, and uses language that is easy to comprehend by a wide range of viewers. You don’t have to relate, you don’t have to pretend to be in their shoes, you just know that what these people are going through is wrong. It’s real, honest, and at moments heartbreaking. It ends on a note where there really isn’t more to be said. But it does make you want to share this knowledge with others.

Our Grade: A+, This documentary is necessary. It’s important that we as a people understand where, why, and how our freedom can be ripped from underneath us. It’s difficult to critique a good documentary. Often bad documentaries can be whittled down to, what was the point of this? And even as beautiful as the cinematography was, it could have been crap and still the way the narrative unfolds would have carried it the film the whole hour and a half. False Confessions reminds you for a brief moment that the world doesn’t revolve around you…and holy cow how has everyone from the NYPD not been fired yet. 

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