Real Talkies

Real Talkies

Every cut is a lie. It’s never that way. Those two shots were never next to each other in time that way. But you’re telling a lie in order to tell the truth. –Wolf Koenig.

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September 26, 2010 , , ,

Presumed Guilty, film by Geoffrey Smith (English Patient) and Roberto Hernandez.

Mexico’s Judicial System assumes that someone is guilty until proven innocent and hence the documentary film “Presumed Guilty” centered around Toño Zuniga, who is falsely accused of murder in 2005 and receives a twenty year jail sentence. Toño case is not an anomaly, this is the reality for thousands of innocent Mexican youth who spend their fruitful years in prison for crimes that they did not commit.

‘Presumed Guilty’ is the story of two lawyers Roberto Hernandez and Layda Negrete and their struggle to free Toño. I happened to watch this film at Silver Docs 2010 and was fortunate to attend the Q and A with the filmmakers.

Shot over 3 years with unprecedented camera access to the Mexican court and prison systems, this observational film is highly dramatic and full of real suspense, yet also, a searing indictment of a system where the police do not have to investigate because the system presumes guilt. (Source:

The film literally keeps you on the edge of your seat – partly because you are in disbelief at the state of the judicial system and partly because of Toño predicament and his family’s plight. Although truth prevails at the end for Toño and his family, it was difficult for me to feel satisfied because my thoughts were with the thousands of Mexicans behind bars for crimes that they did not commit and for all the families whose lives were changed forever. According to the filmmakers (who are also lawyers), 93% of prisoners never saw an arrest warrant and 92% of accusations lack any physical evidence and are based only on witness testimonials. (Source:

Roberto and Layda’s foresight to document”Toño’s” trial and capture over 40 hours of vital courtroom and prison footage combined with Geoffrey Smith’s skillful storytelling has resulted in an amazing social issue documentary. A film that truly has the potential to be instrumental in changing the judicial practice in Mexico. One simple step we all can do is to sign a petition to Stop presumption of guilt in Mexico – to do so Click here. If you are interested in doing more, the film’s website has suggestions on ways one can help – Help is needed to manage database, to spread the word about the film and the campaign, to translate and  and to raise funds.


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