Ship of Justice - A Floating Court for the Amazon

Bruno Amrein's doc shows high courtroom drama in the most distant reaches of the Amazon Delta, combining exotic locals and cultures with universal human problems and conflicts.

The Ship of Justice sails the most remote regions of Brazil to bring the rule of law to the pole huts of the forgotten regions. For many inhabitants of the Amazon Delta, the Ship of Justice is their link to the rest of modern Brazil. Every morning, the bailiffs set up court anew on the deck, where they slept. The floating courtroom defuses social conflicts in the Amazon backwoods. Its main function is not to punish, but to prevent and educate.

The little steamboat "Comandante Fabio" is all of 22 meters long. But river dwellers await it anxiously wherever it docks. The Ship of Justice provides a prosecutor and public defender, clerks to issue birth certificates or pension applications, and social workers to advise them. The 52-member crew handles each case pragmatically and efficiently - despite tropical heat and cramped conditions.

The court cases usually deal with arguments in the family or with neighbors. For example, Judge Fabiana Da Silva has to protect Maria Costa from her abusive boyfriend. Girlene Ferreira sues her neighbor for allegedly setting fire to her shop. And 72-year-old Maria Das Neves is in a row with stubborn Dona Elsa over unpaid debts.