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THE EXECUTION OF WANDA JEAN

USA, 2001 (MIFF 2002, Documentaries)

Director: Liz Garbus

This unflinching documentary probes a strange and complex murder case. Just before Christmas 1988, Wanda Jean Allen shot and killed her girlfriend in front of an Oklahoma police station. A black lesbian with diminished intellectual capacity and a serious criminal record, Wanda Jean faced the judiciary of a notoriously conservative state.

If the deck wasn't already stacked, her case was further complicated by the bizarre. Wanda Jean had already killed another lover in almost identical circumstances in the early 80s, and then her case is taken on by a fundamentalist Christian lawyer. Starting to sound like lerry Springer in a courtroom? Events just go from peculiar to downright weird as Wanda Jean's extended family, Jesse Jackson and a cut-throat prosecutor lock horns for a final, fatal showdown.

Crime, drugs, the death penalty, the US legal system, race and religion all come under the microscope in this powerful documentary. From gunshot to verdict, this is a nail-biting countdown to life incarceration or a lethal injection.

Liz Garbus won two Emmys, was nominated for an Oscar and won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival for The Farm: Angola, USA. Co-founder of indie documentary company Moxie Firecracker Inc, Garbus' other films include Juvies, The Travellers and Body of Evidence.

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