There’s a long history of examining social issues through cinema. But film as a medium through which to examine legal issues is an idea only just beginning to take hold. And it is taking hold here at the law school with the launch last year of the first Stanford Law-in-Film Review.

Wells and Wu work at a computer in an office.
Jodi Wu ’10 and Christopher Wells ’10 editing their film. (Photo courtesy of Roseann Rotandaro ’96)


“This is really an alternative law review,” says Christopher Wells ’10, the group’s co-founder. “We see this as a venue to deal with complex legal and policy issues, with the hope of bridging the gap between academia and the general public and making important issues more accessible.”

Unencumbered by bulky and expensive film equipment, the YouTube generation has embraced video—finding expression through it as easily as through the written word.

Wells and co-founder, Jodi Wu ’10, are also reaching out to other law schools in the hope of creating local law-in-film review chapters, with groups mimicking traditional law reviews.

“Film isn’t necessarily scholarship, at least not yet, but it is another possible channel for scholarship,” says Wells.

Inspiration for the new student venture came during planning for the 2007 Stanford Public Interest Law Foundation auction when Wells and Wu produced videos for the evening. Both had filmmaking experience, but not much—Wells took a film workshop while an undergraduate and Wu spent a year before law school working for an independent film company.

Wells and Wu have spent the best part of the last year juggling law school and making a documentary together, which examines immigration enforcement in Maricopa County in Arizona. They both enjoy the hands-on work and have shared scripting, directing, filming, and editing. They’ve had a shoestring budget, but by borrowing law school equipment have kept costs low.

In the last few weeks before graduation, Wells and Wu have been training new Law-in-Film Review students—and finishing their project. They hope to premier their documentary before graduation and will then look for venues to expand the audience, through the Internet and film festivals. As both prepare for clerkships next year, they’re sure that film will be part of their legal careers—probably in ways that none of us has yet imagined.

Watch the trailer for their documentary Arpaio’s America: