Artist Projects

The Rules of Evidence

Brian L. Frye

The Rules of Evidence is a feature-length documentary that investigates how courts interpret motion pictures presented as evidence. It explores the history of evidentiary films and shows that courts have developed a unique set of rules to determine when and how particular films can be admitted as evidence—a “forensic film theory.” The result can be surprising. For example, many people saw the Rodney King video as indisputable proof of police brutality. It showed four police officers mercilessly beating an unarmed and incapacitated man. But the court allowed the lawyers defending the police officers to present an alternative explanation. The video established certain facts, but those facts permitted more than one conclusion. By explaining how courts evaluate films, The Rules of Evidence yields important insights into the theory of documentary cinema and the representation of reality.