We all know how great a ban can be for business. Just ask Rabbi Nosson Kamenetsky or Rabbi Natan Slifkin how their sales were after their books were banned. Their books became collectors items!
So it’s no surprise that a documentary film banned by the Mexican government is soaring in popularity. The film is called “Presumed Guilty” and I have not seen it yet. So whatever I am writing is based on what I have read and heard from others.
The film is banned because it exposes the Mexican judicial system as a sham. Not only are the trials and proceedings full of injustices, the prison system is equally woeful and inhumane. The protagonist of the film has been excluded as a suspect by all forensic evidence, he has a legitimate alibi and the witness to the crime could not identify him. Yet, he was convicted and re-convicted in a corrupt legal system.
To avoid the embarrasment and the cries to reform the system, Mexico declared the movie illegal and its claims do not need to be addressed.
The ban is always used in the same way. To avoid the substantive claims in a book or movie, authority dismisses the book or movie as illegal. That way they don’t have to deal with the claims.
Luckily, people are smarter than that. When something is banned, people want to know why. They want to know what was so offensive that deserved a ban. Usually, the contraband is found compelling and the people see through the veiled attempt by the authority to pretend that the flaws or issues in their own systems need addressing. If something is ban-worthy, it is probably making good points.
In the case of this movie, it is a point about justice.
In the cases of Rabbis Kamenetsky and Slifkin it was about the fallibility and humanness of rabbinic leaders.
All these examples make great points. If they are wrong, I would love to hear why. I would love to see some evidence to the contrary. But when something is banned and response is not necessary. A ban is the ultimove sign of weakness in authority. When their only defense is “you can’t see what they have to say about us”, their defense is not a defense at all.
The ban on Presumed Guilty has been lifted for the time being. It is back in theaters and DVD sales are soaring. For now…
Watch the trailer here: (contains some disturbing images)