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Film Festival - 12 Angry Men

Wednesday, November 17, 2010
MAC Playhouse - 3:30 pm - 6:00 PM

12 Angry Men

Hosted by: Dr. Robert Singer, Professor of English
College Now English Course Coordinator
Dr. Voorhees Dunn - College Now Behavioral & Social Sciences Course Coordinator
Professor Libby Garland - College Now Behavioral & Social Sciences Course Coordinator

About the Movie: 12 Angry Men
Director, Sidney Lumet 1957 - Rating PG

The defense and the prosecution have rested, and the jury is filing into the jury room to decide if a young man is guilty or innocent of murdering his father. What begins as an open and shut case of murder soon becomes a mini-drama about the jurors' prejudices and preconceptions about the trial, the accused, and each other. All of the action takes place in the jury room.

About the Presenters:
Dr. Voorhees Dunn
is a Professor in the Department of History, Philosophy and Political Science where he teaches courses in American Constitution law, the American legal system, and criminal justice. Professor Dunn is the College Now Behavioral & Social Sciences Course Coordinator.

Professor Libby Garland is a Professor in the Department of History, Philosophy and Political Science where she teaches courses in political science. Professor Garland is the College Now Behavioral & Social Sciences Course Coordinator.

Dr. Robert Singer is a professor in the Kingsborough Department of English, CUNY and adjunct Professor of Film Studies and Liberal Studies at the Graduate Center, CUNY. He co-edited Zola and Film: Essays in the Art of Adaptation (2005), The Brooklyn Film (2003), and co-authored the text, The History of Brooklyn's Three Major Performing Arts Institutions (2003). He is the College ow English Course Coordinator.

Standard College Essay

Extra Credit Assignments
Many issues arise from the analysis and discussion of the film, 12 Angry Men. Some of the more personal issues involve objectively listening to details and facts and not forming opinions too hastily, controlling emotions when faced with making important decisions, and how we perceive and judge other people, such as members of minority communities. Some broader social issues discussed in the film involve our belief in the criminal justice system, the idea of a fair and impartial jury, the right to have adequate legal counsel, and not to be subject to cruel or unusual punishments. There are other related personal and social issues arising from the analysis of this film, and these are only some suggested significant themes to consider.

In a full-length essay (approximately 400-500 words), later to be revised for content and correctness, using one of the questions provided, discuss any of the social, legal, moral, or political issues raised in the film 12 Angry Men that you consider to be of special interest either for you or for society. Explain why and how these issues are significant not only in the film but also in relationship to your own life, past or recent events in American culture, or both.

1. Did any of the jurors voting guilty at the outset of the film have a valid argument for the defendant's guilt? What was the argument and why was it valid? What made the juror change his mind? Did you believe the change was valid? Please explain in essay form.

2. Is justice served in 12 Angry Men? Did a guilty man walk free? Was Juror 8 correct?

3. The courtroom drama is a very popular genre in American dramatic literature. After studying 12 Angry Men, do you have any ideas why this is so? Do you find it an interesting genre? Why or why not? Please explain in essay form.

4. At the beginning of the movie, Juror 8 is outnumbered 11 to 1. Do you remember times you have been in a similar situation? How did you react? If you were on a jury, do you think you would be able to convince eleven other individuals to change sides and vote with them, or would you be tempted to change your own vote?

5. The conditions under which the jurors deliberated were very inhospitable. Consider how things might have been different had the men been seated in comfortable armchairs in a large, well-cooled, soothingly decorated room; also consider parallels between how circumstances provoked the jurors and how circumstances might have provoked the defendant in the case they were debating. Please explain in essay form.

6. Setting aside the issue of diversity - a jury in 2004 is unlikely to be all white and all male - do you think this group of characters, with their assorted personalities and prejudices, is representative of a typical jury today? Why or why not?

7. Watch another film and describe what techniques the filmmakers used in that film to enhance dramatic tension.

8. Weather is often used strategically - to add dramatic tension, for instance, or to diffuse a situation. Give examples of other films in which weather is almost like another character. What role does it play? How does it influence people and events?

9. Some of the posters that were used to advertise the 1957 film contained the following headline: "Life is in Their Hands-Death is on Their Minds! It Explodes like 12 Sticks of Dynamite!" Do you think that this was an accurate advertisement for the film? In what way? If not, in what way is it misleading or inaccurate? Can you think of any recent examples where the advertising for a film (or anything else) did not seem to match what was being promoted?

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