Public Interest Law Film Festival Emphasizes Social Justice

Tue, 09/27/2011

 American IdealistCruz ReynosoChisholm 72Soul of Justice

In celebration of the William S. Boyd School of Law’s commitment to public service, the school will host its first Public Interest Law Film Festival from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. September 30.

The festival will bring together several student and community organizations to emphasize the role of social justice in the community.

“Since we began, Boyd School of Law — through its students, faculty and the Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic — has been engaged in a variety of projects with the larger public interest community in Nevada,” said Prof. Ann Cammett, who started the festival project at the school. “To celebrate these relationships, it seemed like a great idea to gather student organizations, public interest groups and community members in a festive atmosphere where we could highlight the importance of social justice lawyering.”

Cammett says the festival will include four films, each of which provides a glimpse into a social movement embodied within an individual. The films to be shown include “American Idealist: The Story of Sargent Shriver,” a documentary of a man who invented several social initiatives; “Cruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice,” about an attorney, judge and teacher who fought for five decades against discrimination; “Chisholm ’72: Unbought & Unbossed,” about the first black woman elected to Congress, and to run for president on a major party ticket; and “Soul of Justice: Thelton Henderson’s American Journey,” about African-American federal judge Thelton Henderson.

Former lawyer and teacher Abby Ginzberg, who directed and produced “Cruz Reynoso” and “Soul of Justice,” kicks off the festival with a discussion on the importance of the media in advancing public interest and human rights at 6 p.m. Sept. 29 in Room 102 of the law school. Ginzberg will discuss her own experiences in public interest litigation and how she used the media to advance her targeted outcomes.
“Lawyers tend to be very narrowly focused on litigation strategy,” Ginberg said. “But, if you have a good enough media strategy, then you can get sympathy from people watching the 9 ‘o’ clock news.”

In the recent Dukes v. Wal-Mart case, Ginzberg filmed the plaintiffs, and many of the clips were used for video news releases.

“We had a satellite feed, which makes the story that much more compelling,” she said.

Ginzberg said attorneys should think about using the media in any story that is highly visible. Because she has “one foot in the legal world and one foot in the film world,” Ginzberg says she has a “sixth sense” about what legal issues will make for compelling sound bites.

Regarding her two films featured at the festival, Ginzberg said she felt that the stories of these two men were so compelling that they had to be told to a wider audience.

“I had the good fortune to know (these attorneys) personally and knew what kind of special people they were,” she said. “I just had an instinct that if you told the story right, that people would be very interested in these guys. They share a serious commitment to justice.”

Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson will provide closing remarks at the event on Friday.

As the Public Interest Law Association’s adviser, Prof. Cammett says she feels a particular obligation to provide students with the inspiration to do public interest work.

“Many of our students have not been exposed to enough information in a historical context in which values such as equal access to justice were formed,” Cammett said. “There is much to learn from in these films and to be inspired by, as many students want to believe that they too, as change agents, can use law to do good.”

Cammett said she hopes the film festival will become an annual event.

“I think the concept naturally lends itself to repeating. There are many ways to envision public interest law and many themes to coalesce around,” she said. “Besides, it is always a good idea when Boyd has an opportunity to engage with members of the larger community.”

For a complete schedule, list of sponsors and more information, visit here.