'Presumed Guilty' to be Pulled From Theaters

A subject featured in the documentary filed a complaint alleging that he did not give his consent to appear onscreen.

MEXICO CITY -- Mexican exhibitor/distributor Cinepolis said on Monday it has received official government orders to pull the hit documentary Presumed Guilty from theaters after a subject in the film filed a complaint saying he did not give his consent to appear onscreen.

A district court judge here last week ordered the "provisional suspension" of the documentary, but theater operators kept the movie in theaters because they had not received immediate orders from the government-run film regulatory agency to remove the picture. The RTC, as the agency is known, issued the order begrudgingly, as it's also appealing the judge's decision.

Presumed Guilty documents the retrial of street vendor Jose Antonio Zuniga, who was serving a 20-year sentence for a murder he did not commit. After just three weeks in theaters, the film has raked in $3.6 million and surpassed Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 as the highest-grossing documentary film ever screened in Mexico. The film is outperforming Oscar winner The King's Speech and is topping the charts in per-theater average at nearly $7,000.

Lawyer-turned-filmmaker Roberto Hernandez, whose production company Lawyers With Cameras documented the case in order to shed light on the ineptitude and corruption prevalent in the Mexican justice system, claims the court order is an attempt to censor the film.

"We believe it's not necessary to have the authorization to record people who make statements in a trial given that the Constitution says that the accused has the right to a public hearing," Hernandez told the Televisa network.

Politicians, rights groups and key industry figures are up in arms about the court order. Cinepolis said it will comply with the orders, but it's analyzing various alternatives and the available legal recourses to keep the film in theaters.