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| courtesy Sundance Institute A public defender stands with a jailed client in a moment from "Gideon's Army," playing in the U.S. Documentary competition of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
Sundance review: "Gideon's Army"

"Gideon's Army"

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U.S. Documentary

***1/2 (three-and-a-half stars)

Until public defenders get their own TV show to answer the good press the D.A.'s of "Law & Order" got for all these years, director Dawn Porter's tough-minded documentary will have to do the trick. Porter, a former civil litigator, profiles three public defenders (two in Georgia, one in Mississippi) who work long hours for low pay to give poor people accused a crime a reasonable chance at a fair trial. (The movie's title comes from the Supreme Court case, Gideon v. Wainwright, which said having decent representation in court is a civil right.) What emerges in the film are indelible portraits in civil-liberties heroism as these lawyers deal with huge caseloads and unpaid student loans to defend people whose main crime is being too poor to fight a judicial system stacked against them.

-- Sean P. Means

"Gideon's Army" screens again: Wednesday, 9:30 p.m., Redstone Cinema 1, Park City; Thursday, 2:30 p.m., The MARC Theatre, Park City; Friday, 8:30 p.m., Prospector Square Theatre, Park City; Saturday, 3 p.m., Salt Lake City Library.

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