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G [Category A]


Ghosts of Mississippi
The Gingerbread Man
Gideon's Trumpet
The Good Mother
Guilty as Sin

Gandhi (1982)

This monumental movie about a monumental man follows Mahatma Gandhi through fifty years of his life, which transformed the world through the philosophy of non-violent action. The film starts with his struggles as a young lawyer in South Africa, where he honed his legal, verbal, and political skills, and follows him through his long, ultimately successful challenge to British rule in India. The film captures so many of the difficulties that he faced, starting with the struggle of many minority lawyers: a South African he meets on a train does not believe that an Indian can be a lawyer. His legal struggles crystallize some of his strategies, since isn't the law one big non-violent weapon? The film presents the inquiry into the Amritsar massacre with sensitive, detailed understatement. The investigation exposed the real underbelly of British rule. Gandhi's dramatic, peaceful defiance of a law banning the production of salt, on which the British had a monopoly, is one of the finest narratives of the movie. Gandhi, like his follower and American counterpart Martin Luther King, Jr., shows how peaceful, strategic, organized defiance of unjust laws can change the world. Gandhi's persistence through many setbacks is well-illustrated: anyone who uses the law as a mechanism of change must be patient, since the legal, peaceful process requires years of toil.

Fittingly, then, director Richard Attenborough spent twenty years trying to make this film, which won eight Academy Awards. He had great trouble casting the title role --- Ben Kingsley, who was magnificent in the part and who justly won an Oscar, was not Attenborough's first choice. The part was offered to, among others, Dirk Bogarde, Peter Finch, Anthony Hopkins, Albert Finney, and Sir Alec Guinness, who all declined. When it was announced that Kingsley would portray Gandhi, there were protests in some quarters by people who wanted an Indian to play the role. Conveniently, Kingsley is of Indian descent, with relatives on his father's side who came from the same state in India, Gujarat, that Gandhi did. Upon learning that, the protests died down somewhat, and were utterly quelled by Kingsley's performance. (I can't imagine anyone else playing the role, but that's because I have seen Kingsley play it and am a huge fan of his work). But suppose for a moment that Kingsley was just your ordinary British actor, born in Yorkshire, as indeed he was. Wouldn't a Yorkshireman still be entitled to play the part, or to be offered the job, regardless of his nationality, if he were the best? The issues of racial and ethnic "credentials" are hot topics on many law school campuses: some say you can't speak or write authentically about discrimination if you are white, or you can't understand immigrant struggles if you are not an immigrant. Gandhi, the man and this film, have much to teach us still.

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Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)

Directed by Rob Reiner, this film, based on actual events, centers on the mother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was shot in the back in 1963 in his native Mississippi. He was 37 years old. His murder was a milestone in the American civil rights movement, galvanizing many people to action, including President John F. Kennedy, who asked Congress to pass a comprehensive civil rights bill after the murder. The bill passed, under Lyndon Johnson, the following year. Writer Maryanne Vollers wrote: "People who lived through those days will tell you that something shifted in their hearts after Medgar Evers died, something that put them beyond fear.... At that point a new motto was born: After Medgar, no more fear."

The movie focuses on Medgar Evers' wife, Myrlie Evers, who worked for 30 years and three trials to see the conviction of the white supremacist who murdered her husband. The first two trials ended in hung juries. The film follows the third trial and features appearances by three children of Medgar Evers, as well as the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Yolanda King.

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The Gingerbread Man (1998)

Directed by Robert Altman, based on a John Grisham story, the movie stars Kenneth Branagh as a workaholic lawyer who meets a woman (Embeth Davidtz) and becomes obsessed by her.

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Gideon's Trumpet (1980)

Directed by Robert E. Collins, based on the excellent book by Anthony Lewis, the film recounts the true story of Clarence Gideon's fight to obtain a lawyer to defend him at state expense. It is important to know how the persistence and eloquence of Clarence Gideon, an indigent man, in insisting for years that he needed a lawyer and that he had a right to an informed defense, gave us this foundation of our criminal justice system.

The film stars Henry Fonda as Clarence Earl Gideon, Jose Ferrer as Justice Abe Fortas, John Houseman as the narrator and Chief Justice, and Fay Wray. I haven't seen the film; the book is imperative reading for anyone who cares about criminal justice.

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The Good Mother (1988)

Adapted from a novel of the same name by Sue Miller, Leonard Nimoy directs a film in which a divorcee, played by Diane Keaton, must prove she is a good mother in a custody dispute. Strong cast, weak reviews for this film, which I have not seen. The cast includes Liam Neeson, Jason Robards, and Ralph Bellamy.

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Guilty as Sin (1993)

Directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Rebecca DeMornay and Don Johnson, the Internet Movie Database states that this film concerns a female lawyer who takes on "an accused wife-murderer as a client." Her investigation of her client and his case threatens her career and her safety.

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