Acclaimed Mexican documentary plagued with lawsuits


The polemic documentary Presunto Culpable (Presumed Guilty) continues to make headlines, five years after it premiered. On May 18, a commander from the Judicial Police force filed a 600 million peso lawsuit against ten of people involved in making the film. Producer Layda Negrete said in a television interview that there are currently 20 lawsuits against the film and noted that even though it won an Emmy in the United States, Presunto Culpable cannot be sold on DVD, shown on television or in cinemas in Mexico because of the legal situation.

A federal judge ordered a cessation of all distribution and sale of the film in March 2012 while awaiting the analysis of the Department of the Interior (SEGOB) and the Department of Radio, Television and Film (DGRTC) regarding the appearance of a witness who sued the filmmakers, claiming he never authorized being shown in the film. This was criticized by many as overt censorship of a controversial documentary that revealed gross corruption and incompetence in the Mexican judicial system.

The film follows the story of a young man wrongfully imprisoned for murder as he desperately fights for his freedom. Perhaps the most crushing moment – one of many – is when you realize the only reason this young man got a second chance was because of the highly-trained lawyers who decided to film the story and take on his case. There are so many more in his shoes who slip through the cracks of a broken system; most aren’t even aware they have rights, much less know how to stand up for them.

Those who have filed lawsuits against the filmmakers were depicted in an unfavorable light as members of law enforcement, or in the case of the witness, caught in a lie (one he was encouraged to say by the police) that kept an innocent man in prison. Judges who have been involved in these lawsuits have expressed dismay about the film, saying that it “crossed the line”, affecting how the authorities enforce the law. I guess no one told them that is exactly the reason why Presunto Culpable is such an important film and why freedom of expression is so vulnerable in Mexico.

You can see the trailer above.



Animal Político, Un Policía Judicial Demanda por 600 mdp a Presunto Culpable (May 18)

SDP Noticias, Demandan a producción de Presunto Culpable (May 20)