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Hot Docs 2019: “When I Shut My Eyes” (2019) ★★★


We do not need to go far to realize that the juridical system is not smart enough to hold the wealthy people who commit crime accountable. And even when they do it, the time they serve in prison is so laughable that it makes us wonder – what else is new? “When I Shut My Eyes” documents the life of two indigenous inmates in Mexico who were used as a solution to solve a murder crime they did not commit. But if that is the only reason you think enough is to feel outrageous, wait for the whole story to be told to realize that nope, it’s much worse than we can imagine.

The film clearly states that approximately 80% of the indigenous inmates in Mexico do not have an interpreter during their criminal process, therefore, were sent to prison to serve time someone else should have done instead. Adela, a married woman with two children who can’t read and write was accused in the murder of her neighbor, with whom she allegedly had a romantic relationship. As proof, love letters were used to build up the case, however, as I’ve already mentioned, she could not read nor write.

Marcelino, a male inmate was condemned to 30 years of prison for homicide, again, which he didn’t commit. As the two reflect their life before and after prison, the film clearly shows the disconnect of the society when it uses its poor population or minorities to have their justice system spin in the way they want. Almost an hour into the journey, the viewer gets an insight of two individuals who share the story of their life, their hopes and expectations, and how they were used by the system and kept locked from their family. And more importantly, how they were prosecuted and found guilty on the grounds which we don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to realize, were all false.

I like to think that stories like the one you see in “When I Shut My Eyes” do not happen in real life. However, it is not the case as sadly, there are too many to mention here. Written and directed by Sergio Blanco and Michelle Ibaven, the documentary offers a slow-motion perspective of life most people get no chance to witness. And as for its documentary subjects, as you watch them, hear their stories, you realize the pain of being someone who is being used as a shield in the face of the justice system while those who commit crimes walk free because of the money they have or their social status.

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