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EDUCATION: Secondary/High School

Entrant: The Documentary Group / New York, NY
Production Company: The Documentary Group / New York, NY
Producers: Robe Imbriano, Greory Blanc, Tiffany Hagger
Additional Credits: Camera: Edward Marritz, Editor: Marc Tidalgo, Sound: Mark Mandler
Animation: Hiroki Sasa, Victoria Nece

“You have the right to remain silent.” These words are now so familiar thanks to television shows and movies that it’s hard to conceive that they haven’t always been a part of American history. Before these words became a common staple of American culture the Fifth Amendment’s right against self-incrimination was virtually impossible to protect both in court and in police interrogation rooms around the country. And then came Ernesto Miranda. In 1963 Ernesto Miranda was arrested for robbery and sexual assault. Police investigators followed a trail of evidence quite literally to his front door and with the case that ensued the evolution of the Fifth Amendment began. Miranda was put in an interrogation room but was never advised of his right to not be compelled to incriminate himself, or of his Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer. Before long, he confessed. It is this confession that came into question during Miranda’s court trial. Did he voluntarily confess? Was he intimidated or coerced into confessing? Should he have had a lawyer at the time of his arrest in order to protect his Sixth Amendment right? The Right to Remain Silent chronicles the legal, social and historical background that led to the Supreme Court’s 1966 Miranda decision, including the country’s history of police brutality and the legal controversies regarding the Court’s expansion of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The jury convicted Ernesto Miranda within hours and he was sentenced to serve 20-30 years in prison. In 1966, Miranda wrote a handwritten petition for a writ of certiorari from prison – he asked the Supreme Court of the United States to hear his case. And it did. The Miranda opinion, written by Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former prosecutor and Attorney General of the state of California, is a testament to our country’s commitment to protecting criminal rights. Warren declares that police intimidation threatens human dignity, and that the best way to preserve it is not through the Fifth or Sixth Amendment rights alone, but through a marriage of the two: The Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination via the Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer to protect the privilege. Miranda warnings are now such a common staple of popular culture and the decision has achieved such iconic stature, that we forget the furor it inspired. The film chronicles the uproar, from vehemently dissenting Justices to Congress to then presidential candidate Richard Nixon, who made his opposition to the case a central part of his campaign. But the police did not dissent. The film notes one of the most surprising outcomes of the case: Police all over the country embraced Miranda, and the decision took on a new life as Miranda warnings were suddenly being recited by police officers nationwide. The film points out that this was the case that placed the words of the Constitution in the mouths of police, sending a powerful signal to law enforcement and to those accused of a crime that we are a country committed to both law and human dignity. The Right to Remain Silent: Miranda v. Arizona is a story of how a man guilty of heinous crime influenced and ultimately improved the law and with it our constitutional rights.

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