Fordham Law Hosts Third Annual Film Fest


Published: October 30, 2008

Mere hours after retiring as the longest serving president of the American Civil Liberties Union, Nadine Strossen sat down for a follow-up discussion to of the 1974 film “Lenny” in McNally Amphitheatre. She was accompanied by one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America,” Floyd Abrams, and the crowd was quiet. Dustin Hoffman’s riveting portrayal of legendary comedian Lenny Bruce still lingered in their minds. The discussion would address the nature of the first amendment and would question the legality of Lenny Bruce’s vulgar on-stage performances. The first question, “Why would Sarah Palin not like this movie?,” elicited a roar of laughter.

This discussion was held as part of Fordham Law’s Third Annual Film Festival, headed by the director of the Forum on Law, Culture and Society, Thane Rosenbaum. The six-day festival screened films that “artistically convey the legal system to the public,” explains Rosenbaum. The relation between law and art is represented in six films that span nearly a 60-year period; the oldest film, “Adam’s Rib,” was released in 1949. The opening night film, “Recount,” was screened to a sold-out crowd at the HBO headquarters on the Avenue of the Americas and was preceded by an opening reception. The 2008 Emmy Award-winning film features Kevin Spacey, John Hurt and Laura Dern. “Recount” covers the five weeks between the November 2000 presidential election and the December Supreme Court ruling that upheld Florida’s count and gave George W. Bush the presidency. Combining archival footage with some of Hollywood’s most esteemed actors, the film strives to present the inner workings and stories of both sides of the political spectrum in those few decisive weeks. The production is a powerful work of art and entertainment that rivals many of the films released in theaters this year but has found its home on HBO.

Rosenbaum selected “Recount” to show how “the legal system was called into action” and the power it ultimately demonstrated. It also serves as a reminder as the 2008 presidential election rapidly approaches. Popular selected films like “Recount” and “Philadelphia” are also good examples of how law and justice are integrated into society by way of mainstream art and media. The remaining two films deal with these issues but on a smaller and more personal scale. “The Paper Chase,” released in 1973, chronicles the struggles amd self doubts of a first-year law student at Harvard. In the 1999 film “The Confession,” a high-powered litigator struggles with his own perception of justice and success when he is hired to defend a murderer who acted to avenge the death of his son.

Leaders of law and art came together after the screenings to discuss with Rosenbaum the issues and themes the films presented. The discussions represented an exciting and bold synergy that the festival has striven to achieve for the past two years. This year, most of the showings sold out days in advance and attracted a mix of professionals and students of both law and film. The film festival continues to grow in popularity each year and signals one of the many events Fordham’s School of Law has to offer. Two hosted conversations will take place throughout the year and are expected to draw the same amount of excitement as this film festival and to utilize the proximity to Lincoln Center. Rosenbaum concluded hours before the “Recount” screening, “There is no law school that has anything like this or could have anything like this.”