The film tells the story of a prisoner and his sideline heroes for a semester – students at the Northwestern University in Chicago – in documentary form, partly recorded by the students themselves.
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Young law students are trying to find evidence for the innocence of prisoners whose cases even top American lawyers don’t dare tackle. They have one semester, and if they don’t succeed, no one will be laughing.
Chicago. A man has been innocently imprisoned – for more than twenty years. All appeals for parole have been rejected. He is condemned to life imprisonment. His only chance: a handful of law undergraduates.
At the Northwestern University of Chicago, several groups of students are working on cases that even top American lawyers don’t dare to tackle: cases of innocence without DNA proof. Legal exercises with real peoples’ lives: there is no evidence of the guilt of the people they look after – but no evidence of their innocence either – only the prisoners’ own statement. The students take the chance to be part of a group of prospective lawyers at the exciting search for clues in the gangland of Chicago.
In search of proof of the innocence of the prisoners, the undergraduates encounter shady witnesses, corrupt and violent police officers and not so credible experts. The search is frustrating and dangerous. In spite of all of this, the young people manage to free the detainees that they have taken on in places – but not always.
Original title: Heroes for a Semester
Directed by Axel Breuer
Produced by Florian Gebhardt
Austria 2010, 52’/82’, English
2012 © Licensed by First Hand Films