SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The SF Film Festival returns this weekend with films and events returning to theaters in person, after a two-year online run.
This year, more than 130 films will be featured. One of them is a documentary highlighting the untold story of the 1968 murder trial of Huey P. Newton.
“It was a very important trial.. Why? Because it galvanized the transformation of the American jury,” explained author and retired California Judge Lise Pearlman.
The documentary film “American Justice on Trial” is based off of Pearlman’s 2012 book “The Sky’s the Limit: People v. Newton: the Real Trial of the 20th Century.” The film features interviews with legendary journalist Belva Davis and people who were involved, including David Harper who is the first Black man to serve as a jury foreman on a major murder trial.
“To have this jury have seven women and four minorities and one of them being African American who became foreman was groundbreaking,” said Pearlman.
She says she wrote the book after realizing some major scholars had forgotten about the trial’s impact on America.
“We now expect to see diverse people on a jury,” explained Pearlman. “I think its an important lesson not just for jury’s, but I think we need to diversify every aspect of our justice system to help repair and restore people’s faith in it.”
“American Justice on Trial” will be featured Friday evening, alongside two short films — all of which examine Black legacy, vulnerability and history. The event is already sold out.
“My focus has always been on the power of diversity, and diversifying that jury was a huge thing, Pearlman said. “It was considered revolutionary at the time.”
This year marks the 65th year of the SF Film Festival. Of the 130 films slated for this year, more than half were created and directed by Black and indigenous filmmakers.
“It’s wonderful juxtaposition; it’s so timely and it’s so important,” Pearlman said. “It really does make a difference what your perspective is.”
The film festival runs until May 1st. Pearlman hopes to soon have another screening of the film in Oakland.