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Hot Docs 2018 Review: “Crime + Punishment” (2018) ★★★


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Police corruption does exist. Its everyday prosperity is damning and terrifying. But how much can we do as civilians to force the police to perform its primary duty truthfully, with respect and dignity? I won’t be wrong when saying that anything that you will see in “Crime+Punishment” directed by Stephen Maing is not valid or should not be taken into consideration. It indeed provides food for thought and there is no doubt about that. But I am afraid, the message it sends out the audience is not, at least for me, too clear. It forces a one-sided opinion and makes the decision on the audience’s behalf, especially that part of the audience that buys everything being offered to them through the silver screen.

“Crime + Punishment” has an interesting power of telling the story. It’s captivating, super engaging, and even more it’s relevant and important issue to be talking about. It follows the NYPD’s supervisors that force its officers to arrest a certain amount of people or give a ticket to, so as to fulfill the city’s budget. A number of officers come together to file a lawsuit against the NYPD, talk about corruption and prejudice the system follows, and that perhaps the entire issue comes from all the way up to the office of the mayor.

Mainly it’s the black community that is being targeted by police to get their monthly collar or points. The officer, the viewer learns, who “performs” better gets a promotion while the one who steps back and prefers to do the real job of law enforcement stays aside and disregarded when the day for recognition comes. The arrest of Pedro Hernandez can be used as a great example to highlight the police’s ongoing issues, while the mayor insists police is not after quantity but quality.

There is an interesting concept though, which I wish I could get deeper into before getting everyone bored to death. What I found about Stephen Maing’s film that unfortunately works and will continue to work for many viewers is that it has the ability to convince the audience throughout the film that police is out there not to protect us but to bring harm. In most cases and for many countries it does apply the formula of a crime + punishment = money/budget/increase of a labor workers in prison and eccetera. And having that in mind, the fact that United States has the largest number of inmates can’t be ignored in any case.

But what the movie fails to do is to generalize the issue. Its focus is New York and how bad and not trustworthy police is there nowadays. It triggers the feeling of despise toward officers, even towards those who are there in line to do their job the way civilians expect them to do. For instance, the film emphasizes the fact that the areas that has higher number of committed crimes has more police officers than others, which I believe is done not because of meeting the monthly quota but to reduce crime.

But that is not what the film tries to say, taking only one side which will lead the audience to make a wrong assumption. The police summons and quota is something that exists not only in the United States, it happens in every other country, it’s just nobody goes against the system to bring that issue up. But the fact that “Crime + Punishment” does that is admiring and deserves a round of applause.

In conclusion, despite the one-sided story that will lead to only one opinion, Stephen Maing’s film is still an excellent piece to watch. It’s well crafted, subtly narrated and points out so many important issues, one day I hope, can be solved. But the film does not provide hope to the law enforcement in the future, keeps the audience in dark and is objective. But even that objectiveness is intriguing and smart that serves its duty in a way it’s meant to. Perhaps just because of that, “Crime + Punishment” is worthwhile seeing but while having an open mind throughout the film. Because with all those tickets drivers receive for no fault of their own at the end of the month occur everywhere, no matter which country you’re in. The problem is nobody talks about it. But thankfully, whether we like it or not, Maing’s film does talk about it, which a great sign that one day the city will enter the path of cureness from corruption and all the increased symptoms it has will go away like it never happened.

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