A true story that seems based on Franz Kafka’s The Trial, Presumed Guilty is a compelling, immersive look into the rampant corruption of the Mexican judicial system. In a world in which the accused cross-examine witnesses and warrants are nonexistent, a pattern of willful blindness and unabashed hypocrisy emerges. “Sometimes for security reasons, we have to exaggerate or make up charges,” remarks an unidentified police officer. This wanton approach to crime fighting results in stories like that of Toño Zúñiga, a young man who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a murder charge never fully explained to him by the authorities. Roberto Hernández and Geoffrey Smith’s gripping film follows Zúñiga’s consistently outrageous retrial hearings, in which unyielding deference to “what’s been written down in the file” trumps new evidence and eyewitness testimony alike. When the maddening bureaucracy and appalling laziness toward due process—the prosecution’s closing statement is coolly presented via floppy disk to be read at the judge’s leisure—meets the unflattering gaze of the filmmakers’ camera, the directors find themselves in the unlikely position to help provide justice within the broken system they hope to expose.
At 7:30 p.m. at AFI Silver Theater 1; also on Wednesday, June 23, at 2:30 p.m. at AFI Silver Theater 2.