17 S. Cal. Interdisc. L.J. 457 (2007-2008)
The Production of Law (and Cinema): Preliminary Comments on an Emerging Discourse

handle is hein.journals/scid17 and id is 463 raw text is: THE PRODUCTION OF LAW
(AND CINEMA): PRELIMINARY
COMMENTS ON AN EMERGING
DISCOURSE
AMNON REICHMAN*
I.   SETTING THE STAGE:
A. LIGHTS, CAMERA...
We have come a long way since an American Court determined that
cinema is nothing more than a form of entertainment.1 More than half a
century ago it became widely accepted that cinema is a paradigmatic
medium for the communication of ideas, and is thus covered by the First
Amendment.2 Currently, we are on a threshold of a new era, in which
cinema-fiction, documentary, and other genres-is perceived not only as
an instrument for the expression of thoughts and reflections, but also as a
sufficiently rich practice from which it is possible to learn about other
practices, and, specifically, about law.3 Several law schools include, as part
of their J.D. curriculum, a course on Law and Cinema;4 law professors
resort to film in traditional classes5 and scholarly articles; and law
* Visiting Professor of Law at the UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) and Associate Professor,
Faculty of Law, University of Haifa. I have benefited from comments and contributions of many.
Special thanks are due to Oshrat Albin and Alexis Kelly for their excellent research assistance and to
Ariel Bendor and Shulamit Almog for their valuable comments. I owe also a debt of gratitude to
Laurent Mayali for introducing me to this field and to Robert Post for his inspiration.
The Court found that a film is not a serious medium for discourse concerning opinions, and it can thus
not be seen as constitutionally protected speech. Therefore, the State can ban such entertainment
insomuch as it poses a threat to society. Mut. Corp. v. Indus. Comm'n of Ohio, 236 U.S. 230, 242-45
1915).
See United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 334 U.S. 131 (1948); Joseph Burstyn Inc. v. Wilson, 334
U.S. 495 (1952). For the claim that films-at least some films-are ideas, see JACK C. ELLIS, A
HISTORY OF FILM 1 (1979).
3 See WILLIAM P MCNEIL, LEX POPULI: THE JURISPRUDENCE OF POPULAR CULTURE 61 (2007). See also
RICHARD K. SHERWIN, WHEN LAW GOES POP: THE VANISHING LINE BETWEEN LAW & POPULAR
CULTURE (2000); STEVE REDHEAD, THE BIRTH OF LAW AND POPULAR CULTURE 13 (1995) (offering a
comparative historical analysis).
4 For example, courses are taught at UC Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) (by Laurent Mayali and
Ticien Sassoubre); Michael Asimow teaches a course at UCLA, based on the course book he co-
authored with Shannon Mader: LAW AND POPULAR CULTURE (2004) [hereinafter ASIMOW & MADER].
Courses are taught in other law schools across North America, including in Canadian law school (such
as the University of Toronto and Victoria University).
5 For a discussion of the British context, see Guy Osborn, Borders and Boundaries: Locating the Law in
Film 28 J. LAW & SOC. 164 (2001).
6 Typically, scholars would refer to a movie as a legal text. For example, in setting the framework for his
discussion of prosecutorial responsibilities, Fred C. Zacharias states the following: Consider a related,
but perhaps even more difficult question: does a prosecutor have any responsibility to assist persons
457

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