The American trial and the art of cinema share certain epistemological tendencies. Both stake claims to an authoritative form of knowledge based on the indubitable quality of observable phenomena. Both are preoccupied (sometimes to the point of self-defeat) with sustaining the authority that underlies the knowledge produced by visual perception. The American trial and art of cinema also increasingly share cultural space. Although the trial film (otherwise known as the courtroom drama) is as old as the medium of film the recent spate of popular trial films, be they fictional such as Runaway Jury or documentary such as Capturing the Friedmans, suggests more then a trend; it suggests an inherent affinity between law and film. This article investigates this affinity, the cultural space it inhabits, and its destiny in terms of the evolving filmic culture and technologies of the twenty-first century.
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