Orit Kamir


This Article is one example of a "film, law, and society" project. Hoping to contribute to the emerging body of "law and film" scholarship, this Article suggests that some popular feature films offer unique cinematic insight into our understanding of the relationship between law, society, and culture. Furthermore, some films go beyond contributing cinematic-theoretical input and conduct their own cinematic socio-cultural "judging-acts." Engaging in sociocultural dialogue with legal discourse, a film's underlying structure may evoke its viewer's unconscious, intuitive familiarity with legal notions and conventions, and, relying on "legal intuition" thus evoked, the film may manipulate it and engage the viewer in its own implicit judging process. Such cinematic proceedings are distinct from fictional legal proceedings portrayed on-screen. Judgment by film may use a film's characters, plot, imagery, and structure to represent more general social issues and may result in very real influence on the world-view of audiences, who are also society's jurors, judges, and "reasonable people." In the "law and film" relationship, film may therefore play far more active theoretical as well as "socio-cultural judging" roles than portraying legal issues and courtroom drama, or supplying plots for legal analysis. This "cinematic activism" is particularly interesting, as it may go unnoticed and thus escape critical awareness.

Rather than present the concept of cinematic judging-act in a purely theoretical manner, this Article demonstrates its dynamics and significance, its close relationship with cinematic law and society theory, and its elusiveness through analysis of a single feature film: Rashomon.