The Production of Law (and Cinema): Preliminary Comments on an Emerging Discourse

17 S. Cal. Interdisciplinary Law Journal 457-506, 2008

52 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2020

See all articles by Amnon Reichman

Amnon Reichman

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 2008


We have come a long way since an American Court determined that cinema is nothing more than a form of entertainment. More than half a century ago it became widely accepted that cinema is a paradigmatic medium for the communication of ideas, and is thus covered by the First Amendment. Currently, we are on a threshold of a new era, in which cinema — fiction, documentary, and other genres — is perceived not only as an instrument for the expression of thoughts and reflections, but also as a sufficiently rich practice from which it is possible to learn about other practices, and, specifically, about law. Several law schools include, as part of their J.D. curriculum, a course on Law and Cinema; law professors resort to film in “traditional” classes and scholarly articles; and law libraries provide academics with library resources tailored to research the subject matter. Conferences are held in this field, law reviews devote issues to it, and books and articles explore its various angles. Cinema and cinematic technology invade courtrooms and classrooms. With little fanfare we find ourselves discussing law and cinema, based on the assumption — itself a focus for serious debate — that there is a sufficiently common basis between these socio-cultural artifacts to warrant meaningful discourse. We talk about law in cinema: the manner in which law is portrayed in various films. We also talk about the legal regulation of the cinema. We inquire into the manner in which cinematic or quasicinematic techniques are used in the legal process. By extrapolation, we can also think about law as cinema, by referring to legal practices as a specific type of cinematic-dramatic practices. It would follow that we can address cinema as law, by treating cinematic practices as a specific type of practices that perform law-making or adjudicative functions (or functions analogous thereto). Lastly, we can place law alongside cinema, thereby using the practices as windows for gaining a glimpse at the human condition. Is it that we, the jurists, have finally seen the light? Have we finally realized the similarities between the various aspects of the cinematic world — the script, the staging, the location, the aesthetics, the performance (to name a few of its characteristics) — and the legal world? This article proposes to examine the emerging discourse, its limits and promising potential.

Keywords: Copyright, Evidence, Industry, Law and Lawyers in Film, Literature, Motion Pictures

Suggested Citation

Reichman, Amnon, The Production of Law (and Cinema): Preliminary Comments on an Emerging Discourse (2008). 17 S. Cal. Interdisciplinary Law Journal 457-506, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Amnon Reichman (Contact Author)

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa, 31905

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