In Pursuit of Justice is first featured documentary of NH Day and festival weekend
The 2018 New Hampshire Film Festival kicked off with grey skies and a light drizzle blowing in off the Atlantic and coating the brick streets of Portsmouth. But despite the dreary seasonal weather, the streets and buildings are teeming with excited artists, press, and viewers. One of the venues hosting events over the next four days is The Music Hall, a historic and beautiful building. The first film featured this year was The Pursuit of Justice, a documentary decades in the making.
Directed by Gregg Jamback, co-produced/screen-written by Jamie Huss, and starring Greg Taylor and Chris Mumma, this film is riding the recent revival of the true crime genre, pairing smooth and swift editing with an the intense subject of a man serving a life sentence as a result of being wrongly convicted of murder. In a beginning that balances heartfelt and earnest nostalgia with searing and honest visceral images of a violent crime, the film immediately throws the viewer into the primary level of our justice system, where the individual crime and its supposed perpetrators discuss the bare bones of the event that is at the epicenter of the film. From there, The Pursuit of Justice maintains an engaging pace, moving in and out of gut wrenching interviews and narrated explanations of the legal system. All the while the viewer is aesthetically fed the information through an approachable and eclectic visual style that never bores or sacrifices the finer details of an innately difficult and abstract concept.
At the heart of the film is a dueling story of personal humanity and the systems that both protect and smother our freedoms. The story of how a series of everyday mistakes, decisions made without the awareness of the vast sea of other peoples stories coexisting around us, can collide and become the fuel that consumes the direction of hundreds of lives. This story of a man and his family whose resolve is tested by monetary limitations and confounded by a seemingly infinite wall of imperatives, is built with the purpose of maintaining the face of societal rules and their procedural consistency. These rules, however, sometimes conflict with the very ideals they seek to uphold. Through unspeakable tragedy and years of slow moving paperwork, the human will and desire for truth is tested and threatened but ultimately promoted in its capability to bring about change in the face of an overwhelmingly immovable precedent.
By the end of the film you, as an audience member, come to understand that justice is law but not in the league of gravity. Its reach is human, and in being so, often inhumane. It is order imposed on chaos by those who seek to manipulate or fight for it by the people willing to sacrifice decades of their own lives in order to secure justice for individuals in the hope that truth and betterment can be found. And in that regard, the weight of our justice systems power and the responsibility of those of you who are chosen to uphold it on our behalf, is the carefully crafted subject of the film presented in contrast to poor situational phrasing and bureaucratic guidelines.
Witnessing The Pursuit of Justice you’ll be intellectually stimulated by the checks and balances, brought to the brink of tears in the face of the suffering of others, and inspired by a single event that looks to be the impetus for a major shift in a legal world that affects all of us.
By Tom Berry