Facing the Demons

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Crime is a prominent issue in today’s society, which is why Restorative Justice emphasises the way in which crime destroys lives in a community and so it seeks to repair the damage through a structured process. Facing the Demons, a documentary directed by Aviva Ziegler reviews the journey of the family and friends of 18 year old Michael Marslew, shot dead after an armed robbery in Jannali, Sydney as they confront two of the offenders responsible through a restorative justice conference. In this documentary, the audience is positioned to see some of the effects and impacts of Restorative Justice helping the victimised party to proceed in life, how the grief over Michael’s death is dealt with in unique ways by Michael’s family and friends, the issue that crime is everywhere in society and also to understand the reasoning behind the criminal acts, through the utilisation of documentary and narrative conventions. Restorative justice is promoted as one of the relevant ideas in the documentary.

Restorative justice a program made possible by Terry O’Connell aims to rehabilitate serious crime and also to deal with some of the impact of the death of a close person to someone’s life. The audience is encouraged to see restorative justice as having some impacts to a community and to both criminal offenders and victims of crime and also to see the process of how this conference works to resolve the harm caused by the crime and allow both parties to move on. In the documentary the viewer is positioned to see Terry O’Connell as the focaliser, the person responsible for bringing together the participants of the conference and the interviews. In an article interview he reveals, “As a cop what I was desperate to do was to create a system whereby those who had hurt others could begin to understand what that was really about.” This reflects O’Connell’s strong belief that the creation of empathy is not achievable through punishment and by rehabilitating the offenders they may begin to realise the gravity of their crime and accept full responsibility. A trust is forged between the viewer and Terry O’Connell, as he reassures the audience by his neutral voice, providing more detailed explanations about what was happening and interviewing the people involved in the process about their feelings and opinions. However, Terry O’Connell’s role is passive as he facilitates the conference and contributes with most of the voiceovers and interviews in between scenes of the documentary. The audience is encouraged to see Terry O’Connell as portraying a positive view of Restorative Justice in Facing the Demons. The documentary utilises a focaliser to persuade the viewer to adopt this concept of Restorative Justice that it is an effective solution when dealing with the impacts of crime because bring together the perpetrators and victims of crime to get some answers. Through the use of lighting, the interviews after the conference provided the audience some evidence about the effects of Restorative Justice such as promoting the making of amends, compassion and healing. Sarah a best friend of Michael suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and she is portrayed as mentally and physically scarred because of Michael’s death. When Sarah was introduced, the audience is encouraged to feel some sympathy, for her and gain an insight into how Michael’s death has affected her. She lost her way in life, quitting school and not being able to function. After the conference, Sarah expresses her feelings during an interview, “I can actually say that I’ve changed from before the conference... I’m a lot more happier (laughs), friendlier and confident again.” By portraying Sarah as suffering and emotionally fragile, the audience is encouraged to see that through the conference she was able to deal with her fears and sorrows caused by the death of her best friend. The audience is able to sympathise with Sarah and also feel happy that Sarah was able to smile and laugh after...
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