The premise of Celebrity Trials in the Media (2012) sure sounded intriguing. In part the description states that the film “Confronts the need to deliver big ratings that drive advertising revenue, and a new definition of news. Celebrity trials are big business, and ethical barriers are shattered.” The DVD has just been released by Cinema Libre, a company who are something of a brand name in my book. This year alone has seen the release of three excellent features, Fidel; No Subtitles Necessary; and Teen A Go-Go. And those are just the ones I have seen - they have released quite a few others as well. With Cinema Libre there is an eclecticism and taste that I find most appealing.
Having said all of that, my expectations for Celebrity Trials were probably a little high. The film is certainly well-done, but it is not exactly what I thought it would be. The movie is almost entirely focused on the 2004 Kobe Bryant rape trial. Not the trial itself mind you, but of the media circus surrounding it. As a look at what goes on behind the scenes at these gargantuan events, the film is pretty interesting. Off camera, the reporters are a hilariously grumpy bunch.
For all of the hoopla surrounding the case, the whole thing pretty much came down to day after day of shots of Bryant walking in and out of the courthouse. What little actual activity that took place inside was pretty boring as well. The reporters were expected to keep all of the non-events interesting, even though it was a rare occasion when anything of consequence occurred.
As reporter Heidi Hemmet asks, “I don’t see how anyone would think that this would be an interesting story for any viewer in the whole world. Who wants to hear a story about nothing?” It is fascinating to watch her go from this perfectly reasonable assessment of the situation, to delivering her on-camera report. What she actually offers up on camera is a whole bunch of nothing, yet somehow she manages to make it seem like real news. It is bizarre, but she shows an amazing ability to be create a story out of literally nothing
As anyone who remembers the trial knows, it was not televised. In Celebrity Trials it is explained that the decision to allow cameras in or not is discretionary. Evidently in the Bryant case, a poll was conducted. The response was an astounding 70% against. That is a pretty emphatic reaction. Even more revealing were the results of a poll about whether or not the trial was considered newsworthy at all. Only 17% of those polled thought it was.