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Head of the Class: Law in “Action!”


Vol. 39 No. 6

By Tonnya Kennedy Kohn
For Amanda Beck, working on the film The Judge and the General with journalist Elizabeth Farnsworth was a dream fulfilled. Beck, a third-year law student at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, was as an assistant producer on the film that won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for excellence in broadcast journalism—the film equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize.
“Elizabeth was my childhood hero, and I would have jumped at the chance to work with her on anything––even a pedestrian film about wheat growing,” says Beck. “But that’s the thing about Elizabeth. She never would have made that kind of film.”

The documentary, co-produced and co-directed by Farnsworth, centers on Chilean Judge Juan Guzmán’s investigation and prosecution of human rights violations in Chile during the reign of former dictator Augusto Pinochet. The film follows the judge as he uncovers the truth about the regime he had supported.

Beck was a scriptwriter, researcher, and fact checker on the film beginning in 2006. It debuted at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2008 and won the Alfred I. duPont Award in 2010.

“This movie is the story of the salvation of our main character Judge Juan Guzmán,” says Beck, a graduate of Harvard University, who moved to Berkeley, California, six years ago to attend the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. That’s when she met Farnsworth, also a special correspondent for the NewsHour on PBS. By then Beck had already spent two years reporting for the Orange County Register but wanted to expand her media experience.

“[The Judge and the General] combined my interests in the law and journalism, introduced me to film, and allowed me to work on an amazingly rich screenplay,” says Beck, who speaks advanced Spanish and has an interest in human rights. “I had been a newspaper reporter but I had never worked in this medium. When the opportunity to work on the film came along, I jumped at the chance.”

Work on the film motivated her current course of study. She was working on The Judge and the General while applying for law school. “This film is a big reason why I am in law school,” says Beck. “It was very inspiring and very motivating for me.”

The film also fueled her desire to become a prosecutor. After Beck graduates in May, she will clerk for a year with Judge D. Brock Hornby in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine. “If you want to be a prosecutor, it is important to know how the courtroom works and how judges make decisions,” she says, noting that Judge Guzman’s story “reminds me of the difference one really brave, ethical prosecutor can make.”

More information on The Judge and the General.


Favorite website:

Legal hero: Samantha Power

Words you live by: “Imagining the other is a moral quality.”—Amos Oz

Latest interesting thing read: What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng by Dave Eggers

On your bucket list: Admiring Chile’s spectacular Cordillera del Paine mountains on a clear day.

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