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Fall 2024 Seminar

The Carceral Lens: Exploring Criminal (In)justice through Film

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

As America reckons with the profound injustices of mass incarceration, this course looks at the narratives that drive our perceptions of criminal law. Together, we will explore different approaches to understanding how visual storytelling, particularly in the form of documentary film, can shift the way we understand criminal legal narratives. Police body cameras, videotaped confessions, mitigation and victim impact videos, primetime television, citizen journalism, and documentary films often produce narratives that compete with each other, and with our own entrenched beliefs. These forms of visual media command a unique ability to evoke empathy and to make persuasive claims about truth. But such capability can also distort and mislead. It can present its truths as “objective,” obscuring critical questions about identity, perspective, and power. Grounded in this understanding, we will embark on a project of “media literacy,” exploring questions around audience, authorship, truth, and (in)justice.

Additional time reserved for viewing films.