In “Justice”, Maria Ramos films the individual to reach what surrounds him. If the film appears distant to us at times, this distance reveals an illusion. The simple fact of observing those not used to being observed, particularly in certain contexts, already is a radical form of approximation. The documentary puts a camera where many Brazilians have never been – a criminal courtroom in Rio de Janeiro, following the daily routine of several characters. There are those that work there every day (public attorneys, judges, and prosecutors) and those that are merely passing through (the accused). The camera is used as an instrument that sees the social theater, the structures of power – that is to say, what is, in general, invisible to us.

The corridors of the Courts of Justice, the design and layout of the courtroom, the discourse, the codes, postures – all the little visual details and sounds become relevant. The camera is always positioned for a specific scene but is not moved brusquely, in an attempt to avoid unnecessary commotion. A sign of respect, of non-intervention and not wishing to exploit. There are no interviews or statements in the film, the camera registers what goes on in front of it.
Maria Ramos observes an extremely closed institutional universe and that has rarely been dealt with in brazilian cinema. Her film is all the more important due to the limitations imposed in terms of representation of legal systems. In general, our opinion is formed by American cinema, the “court drama films”. In this way, “Justice” is a reality shock.
The film shows the daily life in the Courts by observing hearings of relatively petty crimes: a man caught with a stolen car, another accused of complicity in theft, or young people caught carrying drugs and weapons.

The filmmaker follows a little closer a public attorney, a judge/professor in law and a defendant, whose situation is particularly complicated due to the fact that he is recidivistic. First, the camera catches the “legal theater”, and afterwards, the Detention Center and even some people in their home.
With her options clear, and unobscured by her choice for sobriety and simplicity, Maria Ramos makes it evident that, like documentary making, justice is a long way from being impartial. How and for whom the judicial system works for in Brazil is the fundamental question dealt with in this film, without providing any definite answers or making preconceived judgements.

Pedro Butcher
Revista Cinemais

Missioning editor NPS
Cees van Ede

Jan de Ruiter
Nick Koppen

a Selfmade Films,
Limite Produções
and NPS production
with support of the
Dutch Cultural Media Fund