I recognize that my blogging has become quite sporadic and inconsistent by this point, and I also recognize that this post has, sadly, very similar content to my last one.  But while there is not a whole lot going on in my day-to-day life that compels me to type out my thoughts and publish them in a blog, when someone I can relate to very closely has their life taken away too quickly, that is something that I think is worth writing about.

Angela Mathew was a junior at Harvard.  She wrote for the Harvard Crimson.  She was studying neurobiology with aspirations of going on to medical school.  But how I knew her—the way that I, my former teammates, and thousands of college students across the country could relate so closely to her—was that she was a competitor in college mock trial.  Like me, she was a mocker.

While college mock trial may not be the best known or most widely followed of inter-collegiate activities, to those who compete in, coach, or follow mock trial teams, mockers make up a strangely tight-knit community.  Because there are only so many schools with mock trial teams, and those teams are often on tight travel budgets, the tournaments that teams attend often pit the same squads against each other time and time again, and mockers end up seeing more familiar faces at tournaments the longer they compete.  Whether it’s a wrongful death case against a scuba diving company or a robbery case against an amusement park employee, every mock trial team works on only one case all year long.  When you meet other competitors who have been laser-focused on the same set of facts as you for the past several months, you realize you have a lot of shared knowledge and weird inside jokes with these people that you’ve never even met before.  When you’re in competition against other teams, you can admire the angle they are taking on a certain issue or the effectiveness of their portrayal of a certain witness.  And, of course, for teams too far away to see each other in-person very often, there are mock trial Facebook pages, YouTube videos, Tublr blogs, and the infamous Perjuries discussion forum to allow mockers from across the country to weave the bonds of mock trial community.

I remember going against Angela my senior year of college.  It was the championship round of a tournament at Columbia University, and it was the first time my school had ever competed in a round against Harvard’s mock trial team.  I remember all of Harvard’s attorneys and witnesses giving excellent performances, but Angela’s witness portrayal really stuck out.  Her New York accented, military-diver-gone-commercial-divemaster was entertaining, charming, and had a commanding presence that took over the courtroom.  Sadly, that brief round and a few words exchanged at another tournament later that year were the only times I will ever see her.

While NCAA sports teams might have chartered buses or planes to transport competitors to their competitions, mockers typically do not have such luxury.  When there’s a tournament hundreds of miles away, you pile into the car, take turns driving, and do your best to keep everyone safe.  Of course, everyone knows that accidents happen, and every member of every mock trial team fears the possibility of hearing about a crash involving your teammates.  After this past weekend, tragically, Harvard Mock Trial Association is facing every team’s worst nightmare.

On a Friday in early February, Angela and her team climbed into a minivan and traveled over seven hours from Cambridge, MA to Richmond, VA, to compete at their Regional tournament.  By the end of the weekend, Angela’s Harvard team had won the tournament, and Angela herself had won an individual outstanding witness award.  That Sunday night, Angela was back in the car, riding home with her teammates, victorious.

I, like many mockers across the country, have been on that post-tournament car ride plenty of times.  That car ride where you and your teammates recall the highlights from the weekend and smile at the good memories you’ve just made.  That car ride where you rest your head against the glass window, watch the streetlights drift by, and breathe a sigh of relief that you did your teammates, your school, and yourself proud this weekend.  That car ride where you’re surrounded by your best friends, who just spent the whole weekend with you, dressing up and pretending to be lawyers and witnesses in a series of fake legal battles.  That car ride where you escape the hustle of college life and finally have a chance to breathe, reflect, and realize that you have found an activity and a group of people that make you really happy.

That car ride ended for Angela at 12:25am Monday morning when the minivan she was riding in crashed on the New Jersey Turnpike.  Three of Angela’s teammates were injured.  Angela was killed.

By Tuesday morning, there were text messages and Facebook posts flying around from school to school, speculating about rumors of a car accident involving a mock trial team.  By Tuesday evening, the news broke that Harvard’s team had been in the crash and that Angela Mathew had been killed in the accident.  Across the mock trial community, on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Perjuries, sympathy poured out from the teams across the country, all of us wanting to show our support and none of us able to imagine the anguish of Angela’s teammates and family.

That same weekend, American University Mock Trial had just sent two teams, 17 students and 2 coaches, to the Regional Tournament in Bristol, Rhode Island—a 7-hour car ride each way to/from Washington D.C.  The trip took the team on the same stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike where Harvard’s van had crashed.  We, like every mock trial program across the country, came to the painful realization that that kind of accident could just as likely have happened to any one of our teammates.

All year long, mockers practice to be able to top each other in competition in the fake courtrooms of Midlands, but when something like this happens to one of our teams, we stand together and show our communal support.  While I know there is no gesture or sign of support that can make a dent in the grief that Angela’s family and her teammates are suffering right now, I hope they know that they have the sympathy of the mock trial community across the country.  In the weeks and months ahead, I hope the mock trial community will continue to make even stronger signs of support for Angela’s teammates and family to help them through this horrible time.

Mock trial attracts some of the best and the brightest college students to its competition, and it brings out the best in the students who compete in it.  While I did not get the chance to get to know Angela, I have no doubt she would have gone on to become an absolutely incredible person.  While it can be difficult to find a moral after something as random, tragic, and sickeningly awful as Angela’s death, the words of Reverend Jonathan Walton of the Memorial Church at Harvard, who spoke during Angela’s memorial vigil, are about the closest thing I’ve been able to find.  During the vigil, Walton said,

“None of us can control when the bell will toll for us or for loved ones.  We do not know what tomorrow has in store, but we can seize every moment that we do have to let the special people in our lives know that we love [them.]”

This experience reminds us all to take time to hug our family, our friends, and our teammates, because we truly never know when we will no longer have that chance.  I hope Angela’s teammates injured in the accident make a quick recovery and that the emotional wounds of her friends and family can heal with time.

Our tournaments may create rivalries and competitive drive against one another, but beneath that superficial layer of adversity, mock trial competition forges something stronger between us.  From this horrible tragedy, I hope that mock trial competitors, coaches, and alumni across the country demonstrate our bonds of camaraderie and community as we continue to show support for Angela’s family and teammates.  We are all competitors, and we are all on Angela’s team.

http://www.thecrimson.com/image/2014/2/11/Angela_Mathews/

Photo from Angela Mathew’s Obituary in the Harvard Crimson: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2014/2/11/angela-mathew-remembered-obituary/

Quotation from Reverend Jonathan Walton from Harvard Crimson article on Angela’s Memorial Vigil: http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2014/2/12/vigil-honors-lives-of/

Boston Globe article with details the New Jersey crash: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/02/11/crash-claims-life-harvard-student/jQxfwugqOkFJTZIgBSLHIL/story.html

Press release from the American Mock Trial Association on Angela’s death and the importance of standing together as a community: http://www.collegemocktrial.org/AMTA%20Mourns%20Loss%20of%20Harvard%20Student.pdf

To Andrew Pochter

Posted: July 7, 2013 in Study Abroad

Andrew Pochter, I’ve never met you and never will, but you and I have had many shared experiences. We studied the same textbooks, walked the same streets, and bore firsthand witness to the same transformative stage in Egypt’s political history.  We were both drawn to Egypt to learn Arabic so that we could promote a more peaceful and secure world by bridging the communication barrier that separates West from Middle East.  We both dreamed of a world where people could solve problems through talking instead of fighting and where people interacted with understanding and sympathy instead of suspicion and hostility.
If we’d been in Egypt at the same time, maybe we would have met each other at a cafe somewhere.  Over Turkish coffee or sharing a hookah, we might have talked about what drew us both to study in Egypt instead of other countries.  We might have talked about our college lives back in the U.S., familiar places in Northwest D.C., our experiences teaching English in Egypt, or our slow progress with our Arabic studies.  The conversation, like most between study abroad students in Egypt, would likely turn to politics, and we’d talk about the protests, the political upheavals, and the atmosphere filled with tension, excitement, fear, and hope.
It is unthinkable that your life was cut short so violently while you were working and studying in Egypt to promote peace. My thoughts are with your family and friends, and I hope they find comfort in the fact that you will be an inspiration to our generation as we continue to strive for peace, tolerance, and understanding in Egypt, the Middle East, and throughout the world.
Andrew, may you rest in peace, and may we continue to strive for the peace that you sought in Egypt.

For more on Andrew Pochter’s story, please see this article in the New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/30/world/middleeast/american-killed-in-egypt-taught-english-to-children.html?_r=3&

And listen to this audio clip from NPR:
http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/07/05/andrew-pochter-egypt

The Game of Mafia

Posted: July 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

When my family and I are hanging out in the water at the Lake of the Ozarks, we like to play a game called Mafia—a whodunit game of attempted logic, persuasion, and self-preservation.  To play the game, the group selects one person to take the role of the narrator and the remaining players are “townspeople.”   The townspeople then close their eyes, and the narrator goes around the circle, one by one, secretly assigning each person the role of either a regular townsperson or a mafia member.  Once everyone has a role, the two mafia members open their eyes and silently agree to “off” somebody.  The mafia then close their eyes and blend back into the population of the regular townspeople.  After the narrator instructs everyone to open their eyes and reveals whom the mafia just killed, it is up to the remaining townspeople, mafia included, to decide who the town should execute for the crime.  After someone is chosen and eliminated from the game, everyone closes their eyes again and the sequence is repeated until the only people left in the group are either townspeople or mafia, and that group is declared the winner.
When the group is deliberating whom to execute, the mafia members clearly don’t want to reveal their identities, so they try to point the blame on other townspeople and make them out to be the mafia.  This deception makes the game difficult when you’re a regular townsperson, because the only information you really know is that you are not mafia and anyone else could be.  While you’re trying to figure out who the mafia members really are, sometimes the group will turn on you, and suspect you of being a mafia member.  This predicament was the situation I found myself in during the last game we were playing, where I was a townsperson and the group started pointing the finger at me.
“Eric was smirking when we all opened our eyes, clearly that means he’s one of the mafia,” somebody in the group said.
“Yeah, and he hasn’t said much since we started talking.  Clearly he’s guilty,” someone else reasoned.
I tried to make my fellow townspeople understand that I was not part of the mafia and that I was on their side.  But despite my attempts to reason with the townspeople, the group only became more suspicious of me.
“Look, now he’s trying to steer the blame on other people!  He’s got to be mafia!”
When the only evidence you have is your own word in a game where some people’s role is to lie, your word isn’t going to be enough to save you.  In this case, the townspeople were convinced I was against them, and there was nothing I could say to change their minds.  The group elected to eliminate me and, ultimately, the townspeople ended up losing that game to the two people whom I had initially suspected were the mafia.
Recently, I’ve learned that there are some similar scenarios in life where it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are, how honest you have been, what your level of integrity is, or how much you want to make somebody understand that you are on their side.  When someone doubts you, and the only evidence you have to support yourself is your word, then there’s not a whole lot you can do to help yourself.  As someone who is accustomed to using evidence to prove guilt or innocence in mock trial cases, I had a hard time accepting that there are situations where I can do nothing to persuade others of something that I know to be true.  Sometimes the only thing you can do is to accept the group’s conclusion and hope that they don’t make the same mistake the next time you play.
As much as it stings to get eliminated by the very townspeople that I try to help, I still eagerly sit on the sidelines, waiting for the next round and another chance to help the townspeople bring down the mafia.

The One Year Anniversary

Posted: May 30, 2012 in Study Abroad

May 30, 2012.  6:30p.m. EST

On this day, at this time, one year ago, I boarded a plane to begin my 6-month adventure in Egypt.  Looking back on that moment now, the memory feels like it could not have happened a year ago.  On one hand, May 30, 2011, like the next 206 days of my trip, feels like a dream, like it was part of some other life, and it is sometimes hard to believe it ever really happened.  On the other hand, the feelings from that day are so vivid in my memory; it feels like it could have happened just last week.  I remember the crazy 24 hours leading up to my departure one year ago.  After cutting short my Memorial Day weekend at the lake and returning to St. Louis with my mom, I had already said goodbye to most of my family and friends.  I finished packing my bags, made a 2 a.m. last-minute trip to CVS, had a 3 a.m. mental breakdown in my room, got a couple hours of sleep, took a plane from St. Louis to New York City, got ripped off exchanging American dollars for Egyptian pounds at JFK, and now I was sitting at the gate—the lone American among a throng of Egyptians—waiting to board EgyptAir flight 986 to Cairo.  After I boarded the plane, stowed my luggage, and took my seat, the eleven-hour flight transported me to what felt like an entirely different world.
The next 6 months and 3 weeks brought plenty of unique and unforgettable experiences.  If you’ve been following this blog since last year, then you followed me through the Arabic classes, the political protests, the scuba dives, the intercultural travel, the soccer matches, and all the other experiences that made up my study abroad in Cairo.  For those of you who would like to catch up on my trip, feel free to read posts from the study abroad section.  If you would prefer a summarized version of the trip (which you probably do), I recommend checking out my capstone posts, Khalas and The Highlight Reel.
While maintaining this blog over the course of my trip required a lot of time and effort from me during my time in Egypt, on the one-year anniversary of my departure, I have truly realized the value in writing about my experiences and publishing them on this blog.  Just this past weekend at the Lake of the Ozarks (this time I got to stay for the entirety of Memorial Day weekend), I received two huge gifts from people who kept up with my blog.
The first gift was verbal—the story about how one of my family friends encouraged her daughter to discuss my blog with her 3rd grade class when they were studying Egypt.  Ashlyn presented to her class, recounting my experiences in Egypt and Israel to her classmates, to help them learn about these countries.  Her teacher was so impressed with her, she asked Ashlyn to present to her other classes as well.  Hearing how my blog has had such a ripple effect was more reward than I ever expected to get from this when I began writing.  Hearing that story and getting to thank my publicist, Ashlyn (and her mother Page), in person made all the time and effort I put into this blog completely worth it.
The second gift I received this weekend was a very belated Christmas present from one of my biggest fans, Aunt Katie.  Over the past few months, she had been designing a hardcover photo book with pictures and text excerpts from my blog for me.  She did a marvelous job with it, and now I’ll have my memories from my trip to physically keep with me anywhere I go.

The front cover of my photo book (featuring a photo from Alexandria)

Photos from the end of my summer session

Photos from my trip to Israel

Back cover (featuring a photo by the Red Sea)

I am so glad that family and friends like Ashlyn, Page, and Katie enjoyed reading about my study abroad in Egypt, and many other people have discussed my travels with me as well.  I’ve often gotten the question of whether I will ever return to Egypt.  I certainly like to think the answer is yes, but likely I will not return for a while.  At the very least, I’ve got to stay in D.C. to finish my undergraduate degree at American University before I think of more international travel.  But as I prepare to enter my fourth and final year at AU, I am so glad that I had the chance to study abroad in Egypt and to make this journey part of my college experience.  The experiences I had during my trip made a much wiser person out of the young man who was boarding that plane at JFK a year ago.  I’m glad that by writing about those experiences, I’ve managed to touch family and friends back home and help others gain more global perspective.  At this time a year ago, I was feeling a hundred different emotions, but now, all I feel is gratitude for the opportunity to have taken this trip and for the people who supported me and followed me all the way through it.

Catching Up

Posted: May 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

Thank you to all my readers who stuck with me through all of my postings for my Visual Literacy class.  Those posts certainly consisted of different subject matter from my Study Abroad posts, but I hope you found them worthwhile reads.

With my Egyptian adventure well behind me and my Visual Literacy class over with (I got an A- by the way), I’m not sure which direction to take this blog next.  While I mull it over, I’m going to highlight two videos featuring yours truly that I think you might enjoy.

1)  American University Mock Trial
Although I was out of the country for half of mock trial season, I still had a very memorable spring semester with my mock trial team.  For the team’s end-of-the-year banquet, my teammate Nick and I put together this video commemorating AUMT’s 2011-2012 season.  If you make it all the way to the end, you’re in for a laugh.  Enjoy.

2)  Tough Mudder
Related to the memorable mock trial season was capping the semester with a 12-mile military obstacle course/mud-run with my friend Jess from the mock trial team.  We drove from D.C. to Pocono Manor, PA for the race on April 29.  Now, when I signed up for this race, I was thinking that late April would have pretty agreeable weather for an outdoor race involving water obstacles.  Of course, I didn’t take into account the elevation, so despite the lack of clouds in the sky, the high at Pocono Manor on race day was about 45 Fahrenheit, with a wind-chill that made it feel like 30.
It was definitely one of the craziest things I’ve ever done, and fortunately, Jess’ brother was there to take video of it all.  He put together a great video of me, Jess, and our friend Everett in our attempt to earn our orange headbands.  Enjoy.

While the race definitely lived up to its reputation as being “probably the toughest event on the planet,” it made for a very fun and memorable day.  If this looks like the type of thing you might enjoy, I encourage you to check out http://toughmudder.com/ and find an event near you.  Oo-rah!

Hopefully I’ll find a new focus for this blog soon.  Until then, brace yourselves for more random posts about my life.

Hey everyone, here is my final project for Visual Literacy class.  The idea of this film is that it is supposed to be a “mood piece”.  Watch the film and then describe your mood/emotion in one word.  Enjoy.


“Our Freedom Isn’t Free” Production Journal:

Pre-production:

Because my final assignment gave me a lot of freedom to choose my medium, my topic, and my subject matter for my project, it took a lot of time to figure out what I wanted to do for the project and how I wanted to do it.  I knew right away that I wanted to use video as my final project medium, since that tends to be the medium that where I create my best work, but coming up with the topic for the video took a bit more time.  Out of my numerous options for directions in which to take the film, one options was to create an experimental type of film called a “mood piece”—designed simply to evoke a particular mood in the viewer.  I thought back to movies I’d seen where I’d felt the strongest moods while watching them.  Every film I could think of that evoked an emotional response from me—from Inception to Requiem for a Dream—had a strong soundtrack to accompany the images on the film and to push home the emotional appeal of a scene.  I wanted to see if I could create the same type of emotional push using a powerful soundtrack paired with a series of powerful images, so I decided to try my hand at making a mood piece.

The question then became which images I would shoot, which soundtrack I would use to accompany those images, and which mood I would try to evoke in my viewers.  Since I go to school in D.C. and I have the opportunity to regularly see the majesty of the monuments and memorials of the National Mall, I decided I would use those as the subjects of my film.  I was going to create a mood piece to allow others to feel the kind of patriotism that I feel when I visit the monuments and memorials on the mall.  In deciding on a soundtrack, I immediately thought of which song I wanted to use.  “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland is an American classic, and it’s a song that I associate with a majestic scene.

But I also wanted the soundtrack to communicate more than just the majesty of the monuments.  In trying to figure out what to do, I thought back to a YouTube video I had seen which gave a montage of American military men and women in action.  The most powerful part of the video wasn’t the images, and it wasn’t the Transformers soundtrack playing in the background (which is a great soundtrack, by the way), it was the voice over of Ronald Reagan delivering his “A Time for Choosing” speech.  Hearing that speech delivered in the 60s and relating it to the American military men and women of today made watching the video so much more than seeing some cool action shots of the American military.  It drew a parallel between the Cold War and the conflicts our military is currently engaged in, and it tied American history to the present day.  Without a doubt, it evoked strong patriotic emotions in me.  I decided I would put voice-overs of important American speeches to accompany the relevant American monuments on the camera.

I thought of the monuments where I would want to film, I thought of some speeches that could accompany those images, and I drew up a storyboard to pitch to Professor Williams.  In talking with Prof. Williams, I realized that my theme was inconsistent.  On the one hand, I was going for a America-is-awesome-so-you-should-feel-patriotic sort of thing, and on the other hand, I was going for a our-servicemen-and-women-have-died-defending-us-and-our-freedom-so-you-should-feel-patriotic sort of thing.  Prof. Williams and I decided I could try to reconcile the two, by making my video about how American freedom is amazing, but our freedom isn’t free.  I decided I’d see what I could do with that theme.

 

Production:

Friday, May 4, 2012:  I went to the library to rent a Kodak zoom-enabled video camera and a tripod.

Saturday, May 5, 2012:  I woke up at 4:30a.m. to get down to the mall to record the sunrise.  Let me tell you, there are some pretty interesting people on the public bus at 5:00a.m. on a Saturday morning.  Anyway, I got to the mall and started taking some pre-dawn footage.  I quickly discovered that I wasn’t liking the performance of the Kodak camera, so I switched back to Old Reliable, my Canon Powershot A3100—she isn’t much, but she gets the job done.  My camera was compatible with the tripod, so I used the tripod to stabilize all my shots.  I took A BUNCH of footage of the sunrise from the Lincoln Memorial (I had never seen the sunrise from there before, and it definitely lives up to the hype).  I then wandered around to different monuments and memorials and shot simple steady pan shots from several angles.  I shot footage of the Lincoln Memorial, the MLK Jr. Memorial, the FDR Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, the White House, the Constitutional Gardens, and the Vietnam and Korean War Memorials.  Then I walked across the bridge to Arlington, and shot footage at Arlington National Cemetery, notably at the Tomb of JFK and at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  My shooting wrapped up around 11a.m., and overall I was wandering around taking footage for about six hours.  I was very satisfied with the amount of footage I had shot, and I was going to have plenty to choose from to put into my roughly three-minute video.  When I got home, I uploaded my footage onto my laptop and imported it all into iMovie.

 

Post-Production:

Sunday, May 6 – Tuesday, May 8:  I edited my film using iMovie software.  I quickly realized I should have been a little more discretionary in how much I shot, because it was difficult to sift through all my footage to find the short clips I wanted to use.  I began to download mp3 files of speeches off http://www.americanrhetoric.com, and I browsed transcripts of the speeches to find which clips I wanted to use.  I quickly discovered how difficult it was to time the clips I wanted to use with the transitions in the score playing in the background.  I also found that some of the speeches I wanted to use simply did not work because they did not balance with the other speeches in the film.  For instance, I wanted to use speeches by Barack Obama and Harry Truman, but while they are both great speakers, their speeches paled in comparison to the legendary orations of FDR, MLK Jr., and JFK.  When I listened to the Ronald Reagan speech, I knew I wanted to end with that one.  I had happened to film the bugle playing “Taps” next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and I decided to use that as the soundtrack for the end of the video.  The whole thing was a big trial-and-error process, but after a lot of painstaking timing changes and clip adjustments, I ended up with a product that I was pretty happy with.

To improve on the project, I would have liked to have had better film equipment.  When trying to capture the grandeur of such huge monuments and memorials, it helps to have a camera that can take in all the details.  Additionally, I would have liked to have clarified the theme a little better—either sticking to the military side or the American freedom side.  I think it would have been cool if I could have shot some candid footage of kids playing near the monuments, construction workers building downtown, and people leading happy, American lives.  That probably would have added to the patriotism feeling and added a human element that is difficult to get when looking at monuments and memorials.  But overall, I’m very satisfied with how the project turned out.  It took a lot of work, but I think the final product does a nice job at invoking a patriotic mood in its viewers.

I love video production, and I’ll probably be working more with iMovie over the summer.  For my next project, I’m going to try to incorporate the same background soundtrack + voice-over concept as I used in the mood piece to make an emotionally appealing promotional video for the AU Mock Trial team.  Should be fun.

 

Ace Attorney Critique

Posted: April 23, 2012 in Visual Literacy

Every spring, Film Fest DC screens a wide variety of foreign films at theaters around D.C.  This year, the list of films included dramas, comedies, action movies, and everything in between from 39 different countries, and I wanted to make sure I saw at least one of them.  As someone who is obsessed with an obscure activity called mock trial, I read the title of the film Ace Attorney and instantly wanted to go see it.  Through Film Fest DC, I was able to watch the film at the E Street Theater last Friday and write a critique of it.

Video game title screen for Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Developed by Capcom (Japan) -- Published by Nintendo (2001)

Movie screenshot for Ace Attorney: Directed by Takashi Miike - Japan - 135 minutes

A critique of Ace Attorney

Ace Attorney is a comedic, fantasy realism film based on a video game of the same name.  In a time when crime in Japan is extremely high and courts’ dockets are overflowing with cases, the Japanese legislature establishes a system where each defendant is only allowed a three-day bench trial to prove their innocence.  The result is a lot of dramatic courtroom showdowns, where prosecutors and defense attorneys use quick, back-and-forth arguments and cool, futuristic technology to show their evidence, examine their witnesses, and make their case to the judge.  The film follows protagonist Phoenix Wright, a novice lawyer fresh out of law school, in his attempt to unravel a mysterious murder and defend his friends from wrongful prosecutions.
The film uses visual elements and principles very effectively to create a fantastic environment where these events take place, to connect flashbacks to the regular storyline, and to remind the viewers that they are watching a film that is based on a video game.  While the real life legal world is usually comprised of a lot of dark suits in dim courtrooms, the legal world in Ace Attorney is much more vibrant, colorful, and visually appealing.  Phoenix always wears his blue suit and the prosecutors he faces wear red suits with elaborate neck scarves. But while the colorful attorneys add visual appeal to the trials, the best use of color comes from the costumes of the spectators in the gallery.  The bizarre hair, makeup, and clothing of the people who pack the courthouse to watch the trials reminds the viewer that these trials are taking place in the fantastical world of the video game.  Additionally, the film uses excellent editing techniques to visually connect flashbacks to the storyline and to keep the viewer guessing while Phoenix unravels the truth about what happened in his cases.  Flashbacks of the same scene are shown over and over again throughout the film, each time adding a little bit more to the scene as Phoenix uncovers more information in his investigation.  During the parts of the film that are in a courtroom, the film uses terrific special effects, reminiscent to televised graphics of a professional sports game, to quickly highlight the evidence he is referring to and to keep the trial very fast-paced and exciting for the viewer.  These visual aspects make the film very fun to watch, and they remind the viewer that they are watching a film based on the alternative world of a video game.
The main purpose of this film is to give a new interpretation of a story originally told by a video game.  While it’s primary function is entertainment, the film also shows the viewer the importance of proper due process in our legal system.  While the Japanese system is different from the United States’, neither system is degraded to the point of the legal dystopia that exists in the world of Ace Attorney.  The chaotic trials in this film demonstrate why we do not want to sacrifice defendants’ rights in criminal trials.  The film illustrates for viewers how the purpose of our legal system is not simply to convict suspected criminals but to search for the truth so as to not convict the innocent.  But in addition to these deeper themes on legal theory, the film also demonstrates simply that the practice of law can be exciting.  Since the video game is primarily marketed towards youth and the film is likely to be viewed by a similar audience, the director could be subtly encouraging youth to think about a career in law, which typically is not the type of exciting profession that people consider at a young age.  Since Japan is a developed country and the film did not embrace any revolutionary themes or ideals, the film did not fit the Third Cinema genre that our class discussed, but through its portrayal of an alternative legal world, it shows themes of the importance of protecting defendants’ rights and the excitement of the legal profession.
I am far from an expert on Japanese cinema, so it is difficult for me to give a fair evaluation of this film, but judging from an American perspective, I enjoyed the film immensely.  There were some repetitive points in the story and times when the dialogue or acting did not appeal to my American tastes, but, as a whole, I thought the movie was very entertaining, and I left the theater still thinking of all the exciting special effects, colorful costumes, and intricate story lines that made up the fantastical legal world of Ace Attorney.