Alternative Law Journal
by Kathy Laster with Krista Breckweg and John King; Federation Press
2000; 130 pp; $27.50 softcover.
Attention all teachers in Legal Studies or Law! How often have you wanted to show students how the law works and hunted in vain for a video that would illustrate the issue or the process you are trying to teach? Now your searches are over. This little book is a gem of a resource for using film to enhance student learning about legal issues and process. It is an annotated filmography of 190 serious, sad and funny films which feature courtroom scenes as integral to the plot of the film.
Inevitably the filmography is dominated by American offerings as the authors readily admit but they have made every effort to include films from Australia, Britain and other countries. It's a pity there's nothing from Canada. The selection is nevertheless broad with films from each decade since the 1920s which will be useful for demonstrating how law has changed over time.
The filmography is divided into three parts. The first is a short discussion of the uses of film in teaching and how this relates to popular culture. The second part is a subject index which makes it easy to look up the area of law you are interested in teaching, and finding all the films which relate to it. For example, you can find films about access to justice, voir dire, contract, euthanasia, gender, juveniles and lawyers among the 149 entries and numerous sub-entries. The longest list of films belongs to 'homicide' - the clear favourite among courtroom topics for film makers! All subject entries are cross-referenced to the page on which the film is listed in the third part of the book which provides synopses of films divided by country and either criminal or civil jurisdiction. There is no family law category but the subject index includes family law issues to do with divorce and children. As a boon to busy teachers, within the synopsis of each film the authors have very usefully provided counter numbers to locate the relevant scenes.
For those of us wishing to make use of this very handy resource, it only remains to get our librarians to track down and buy the videos we might use as well as making sure we adhere to copyright! I'm taking my copy of this book to my librarian right now. • JB
by Kathy Reichs; Heinemann,1997; 411 pp, $19.95 softcover.
Deja Dead is Kathy Reichs' first novel. Fans of Patricia Cornwell will find Reichs' work very familiar as Reichs has mimicked Cornwell's style completely.
Deja Dead is a crime thriller based on the plot of a serial killer preying on women. Reichs is a forensic anthropologist as is the central character, Dr Temperance Brennan, affectionately known as Tempe. Tempe is a replica of Dr Kay Scarpetta, a single professional woman, with a daughter (instead of a niece) who is also threatened by the killer. In this story, Tempe is temporarily based in Montreal, Canada.
Piles of bones abound in this Canadian city, both old and new, suggesting the work of serial killer. Tempe is convinced of this despite the cynical attitude of the police. Not to be ignored, Tempe becomes a forensic scientist who excels at detective work. As a result she finds herself in a variety of dangerous and terrifying situations.
As a Cornwell fan, I found this book hard work. The fact that the forensic in formation is limited to bones (and the difference in the cut or saw marks) be came quite tedious, and the story and characters seemed inferior and superficial compared to those in an exciting and complicated Cornwell novel. How ever, the end was very exciting so perhaps Reichs' next novel will be an improvement! • KB
Bits contributors: Karen Bowley, Jenny Burley