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Bagatelle

 
Bagatelle

(Bagatela) Director: Jorge Caballero Ramos, E, 2008, original version / Czech and English subtitles, 68 min

Colombia's Bogota has one of the highest crime rates in the world. In this documentary director Jorge Caballero focuses on one day at a court in the city; hearings are heard and sentences handed down for small misdemeanours that under local law are regarded as serious crimes. Most scenes feature interviews with defence attorneys and defendants, revealing both the crime which they have (or have not) committed and their living standard. Colombian criminal law is extremely strict: for instance, the theft of a bottle of cologne can lead to two years in jail. High sentences for banal infractions - which the whole court machinery feeds off - are, however, automatically reduced or overturned if the defendant pleads guilty. For that reason crime solution figures in Bogota are very high. Defence lawyers hear very similar stories every day: their clients include people with low incomes, sometimes jobless, often homeless, drug addicts or supporting large families. If they escape prison today, how long will it be before they return to court? The camera sensitively follows hearings and verdicts. Between individual stories it explores the court building, which alternates between bustling periods and quite lulls. The only exits are to freedom - or an over-crowded cell.


 

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