MEXICO CITY — Two judges ruled Monday that theaters can continue to show controversial Mexican documentary “Presumed Guilty” (Presunto culpable), about the country’s broken judicial system, as long as the identity of a man who appears in it is protected.
The doc, which opened Feb. 18, has been at the center of legal wrangles since March 2 when Judge Blanca Lobo ordered exhibs to temporarily suspend screenings after a key figure in it said he did not give permission to use his image.
“Guilty” centers on 26-year-old vidgame repairman Antonio Zuniga, wrongly jailed for 20 years for a killing that took place over a mile from where witnesses were watching him work.
The Radio, Television and Film General Directorate enforced the suspension order on March 7 but it was over-ridden the following day by a three-judge tribunal and “Guilty” returned to theaters March 9, subject to Monday’s ruling.
The controversy sparked huge interest in “Guilty” and sent its box office take soaring to $5 million — a record for a doc in the country and more than double the $2.2 million earned by previous record holder, Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
Lawyers-turned-filmmakers Layda Negrete and Roberto Hernandez regularly appeared on nightly TV newscasts to argue against the doc’s suspension, sparking a national debate on the film’s themes and boosting demand in areas that had yet to receive the film.
Opening on 130 copies via exhibitor-cum-distrib Cinepolis Distribution, it has now expanded to 300 prints in more than 70 cities and is at No. 2 in the B.O. chart.