RKS Film: “African Moot”: A Dual Personality Review: Toronto Hot Docs

Ok, what is a “moot”? It is an experience just about all law students suffer or enjoy. It is a mock trial in front of judges based on a fictional case. The judges may be actual judges or legal practitioners. It involves hours of preparation added on to a crushing workload of everyday lectures. So in addition to simulating litigation it also imparts what it is like balancing a heavy workload which many lawyers suffer from.

Having practiced law for 33 years I still remember my moot with my partner Nina at McGill University in Montreal. We had a case of a young man convicted of drug dealing. He was tricked by police to make a drug deal so the issue was if there was “entrapment” which might result in the charge being dismissed. Talk about stress and pressure!

In this documentary law students throughout Africa participate in an annual  pan-African moot competition. So I have been there and done that and have an inside track few viewers will have. So I will assume a dual personality in this review.

My View as a Lawyer

This documentary captures the anxiety, terror and joy of a moot. The preparation. The rehearsal. The exhilaration. The challenges. It also gives a snapshot that however much you prepare a question or two from a judge can cause you to stumble and falter no matter how well you have prepared your oral argumentation. At times acting and improvisation can save your butt. It also may determine your appetite to become a litigation lawyer or as they say in the United Kingdom a barrister. As a lawyer I thought this an accurate and entertaining if not a nail biting documentary.

My View as a Film Critic

I worry that the intricacies of a moot and legal argumentation may be lost on the average viewer. What I identify with and smile about may not have the same effect on the non lawyer viewer. For the non-lawyer this may be but a foggy “game”. It may be too complicated to digest and for the filmmakers I say a principle in tort law that you take the victim as the victim was. In other words you take the viewer as they are.

You will see the stress and the tension. Emotions are flying all over the place but will the viewer be able to really connect with the emotional roller coaster faced by these students? Has the documentary become too obscure and complicated?

The End Result

As a lawyer viewer I can closely identify with the preparation, rehearsal and final performances and it resonates with me. As a lawyer I give it a 90/100.

As a non lawyer I see this as complicated and difficult to digest for the non lawyer viewer. I would give it a 79/100 rating.

It is more than simply a moot but an examination of African society and how it views the future of African justice. But are these intricacies apparent to the viewer?

You can see trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93ZDZBnfbnA

The film can be seen in theatre at Hot Docs on April 30 as a world premiere and on Wednesday May 4. As of May 1 it can be streamed for 5 days geoblocked to Canada.

A film by Shameela Seedat.

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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