Week 11

The documentary, “The Thin Blue Line” by Errol Morris was a fascinating look into the failings of the American justice system. It illustrated a horrible crime that was committed as well as the preceding legal events that lead an innocent drifter to receive a life sentence while a young, reckless killer was permitted back into society where he continued to cause damage to other people’s lives and property. I especially find the backstory of the film to be remarkably interesting. The creator of the film, Errol Morris, set out to make a film about the so-called Dr. Death, a Dallas based psychiatrist who had become famous for his harsh and highly controversial testimonies after being asked to determine whether or not a convicted person was too dangerous to be left alive. He was a popular choice by prosecutors seeking the death penalty and had a long 15 year career of convincing jury’s that a convicted man would be ‘100 % per cent certain’ to kill again if he were released into the general public. Dr. Death became a significant figure in the Texas judicial system and caught the intrigue of Errol Morris. Morris was so interested in the career of Dr. Death that he began planning a documentary with Dr. Death as the focus. As Errol Morris studied more and more about the life of Dr. Death, he discovered a case Dr. Death was involved in that quickly changed the course of the project. This case was of course that of Randall Adams, a drifter serving a life sentence who claims that he was framed for the murder of police officer. I personally believe that this backstory shows a great deal of risk by Errol Morris and is a good lesson for filmmakers. During the process of researching a film, Errol Morris left himself free to pursue paths and stories even though it would steer him away from his original idea. Morris was decisive and chose to follow a story line that he felt proved ripe with injustice. This decision led to the creation of this enchanting film that eventually helped reopen the actually court case which in turn released an innocent man from a lifetime behind bars. This artistic endeavor was able to make real change by shining a light on a dark corner of our judicial system. I believe other filmmakers can learn from the experience of this film and begin to understand the power that film can have in society.

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