'All Rise': DOC NYC Review

All Rise Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Subject
The fascinating subject is reduced to the level of a reality competition television show.

Jeffrey Saunders and Jay Shapiro's documentary profiles seven participants in the International Moot Law Court Competition known as "The Jessup."

From the Olympics to every imaginable intellectual or athletic competition, the common media approach is to concentrate on the personalities of the contestants. Such is the case with Jeffrey Saunders and Jay Shapiro's documentary about the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, better known as "The Jessup." Unfortunately, All Rise spends less time on the history and details of the event, the world's largest moot court competition, than on profiling seven participating international law students. The results, far from fully illuminating, are reminiscent of a reality competition television show.

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We do learn some details about the annual event, a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations. Held in Washington, D.C. and featuring hundreds of law students from universities throughout the world, it is the largest moot court competition in existence. The compromis in the film concerns a dispute between the fictional countries of Amalea and Rutania.

It's a fascinating subject that is dealt with in only cursory fashion as the filmmakers, apparently interested in garnering as many frequent flier miles as possible, instead dwell on the personal stories of seven young participants. We're thus introduced to Abhinav Sekhri, of India, a nervous type who has to write "Smile" on his notes; Tomer Greger of Israel, whose military experience has given him a discipline that serves him well; Jonathan Morgan of Jamaica, who has an obsession with solving puzzles; Areej Alragabi of Palestine, who lives with her parents and six younger siblings in a refugee camp in East Jerusalem and who dreams of someday representing Palestine in the ICJ; Olga Koroleva of Siberia, whose fun-loving nature disguises a fierce competitiveness; Kenny Lau of Singapore, whose native country often fares well in the competition; and Maurice Muhumaza of Uganda, whose stoic demeanor stems from being bullied as a child.

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But while the subjects are an intriguing and divergent lot, their personal stories, such as Areej's younger brother being killed in a traffic accident, add little to the overall context. And although it's charming to see some of the participants dress in their native garb for the competition's "Go National Dress Ball," it would have been much more gratifying to have been more fully immersed in the both the Jessup competition and the fictional case that was being decided. 

Directors/producers: Jeffrey Saunders, Jay Shaprio

Director of photography: Jason Krangel

Editor: Jay Shaprio

Composer: Gil Talmi

Not rated, 96 minutes