Published May 06, 2008The infamous trial against former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Miloeviæ in the Hague war crimes tribunal was called the most important legal case since Nurenberg.
Combining selections from over 2,000 hours of courtroom footage with interviews with the leading players in the case (mainly principal trial attorney Geoffrey Nice), Christoffersen provides a deep and intricate view into a complex case against a very complex man.
Miloeviæ at no point during the four-year trial recognised the legitimacy of the court, refusing legal counsel even when his health problems made it difficult for him to continue representing himself.
Its questionable whether his legal strategy worked, but his death from a heart attack in 2006 (just hours before he was to complete his defence) provided an unexpected and abrupt conclusion to the four-year ordeal. Nice comments that Miloeviæs death provided the best possible ending to the legal case, leaving the matter open for possible future examination.
The film manages to distil the four-year trial into a tight 70 minutes, balancing harrowing videos of massacres with hilarious footage of witnesses such as the notorious, profanity-spewing Vojislav eelj, currently on trial for war crimes himself.
During the Q&A at the films first Hot Docs screening, director Christoffersen commented on the fact that the Nuremberg trials were filmed by professional international cinematographers, while this trial arguably as historically important was shot by a film professor and six of his students. Indeed, the footage isnt always of great quality but the subject matter is so gripping that it doesnt matter.
The only visual distractions from the case are attorney Geoffrey Nices outrageously bold shirt and tie combinations. The fact that a man whos in charge of one of the most important court cases in history can get away with wearing purple gingham and a tie with tiny pink whales on it is impressive on a whole other level. (Team Productions)