Watching the documentary dream/killer knowing that its falsely accused and wrongfully convicted subject, Ryan Ferguson, was freed after spending nearly ten years in prison does nothing to mitigate the tension (and mounting fury) of seeing Ferguson and his father, Bill, navigate the American legal system.
Director Andrew Jenks’s film isn’t about the Ferguson family’s nightmare at all, really, but how vulnerable we all are to bad cops, inept lawyers, and a judicial system hostile to the very idea of justice. When Charles Erickson, a childhood friend of Ryan’s, names Ryan as his co-conspirator in the murder of a local sportswriter — this following a dream Erickson claims has unlocked buried memories of the crime — Ryan finds himself railroaded in court, with his only possible key to freedom his father’s unwavering dedication to finding the truth.
Although the film features original interviews with Bill Ferguson, legal experts, and newscasters who covered the trial, Jenks’s narrative and legal ace is footage procured from inside the police car that first picked Ryan up, from the initial interrogations of Ryan and Erickson, and from the courtroom during the trial.
This is not the slickly manipulative stuff of TV cop shows. On display are the ignorance, meanness, and willful disregard of the law by people charged with enforcing it. This is a real-life horror story, raw and galling — but not surprising. The fact that viewers, like the Fergusons, can muster only bittersweet relief at Ryan’s release from prison is the film’s whole point: The legal system itself is so damningly captured.
Directed by Andrew Jenks
Bloom Project & Cinedigm
Opens December 4, AMC Empire 25