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Trials on Film: High Stakes for Society

Audio-Visual Exhibition - Entry free of charge
Du 20 mai au 18 décembre 2021 (fermetures du 7 au 21 août, le 28 août et le 11 novembre 2021)
Site de Pierrefitte : ouverture du mardi au samedi, de 10h à 16h45.
Site de Paris : ouverture le lundi et du mercredi au vendredi, de 10h à 17h30, les week-ends de 14h à 17h30
Sites in both Pierrefitte-sur-Seine and Paris

The Justice Ministry's audio-visual archives, maintained by the French National Archives, are for the first time being made available to the public within the framework of a unique exhibition. Thanks to the Law of the 11th of July 1985 (loi du 11 juillet 1985) as advocated by then Minister of Justice, Robert Badinter, cameras have been allowed into courtrooms to monitor cases on the Second World War, the Chilean dictatorship and the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis in Rwanda. They provide the opportunity to immerse yourself entirely in the trials, which have been filmed in their entirety.
These historical archives allow visitors to plunge head-first into the judicial hearings, which examined alleged crimes against humanity, crimes of genocide and challenged the universal jurisdiction attributed to French courts.

L'exposition Filmer les procès, un enjeu social, la représentation des archives audiovisuelles de la Justice


  • In Pierrefitte-sur-Seine visitors are invited to explore the excerpts of 2600 hours from the Justice Ministry's historical archives, as well as excerpts from the historic inaugural trials of the senior Nazi officials in Nuremberg (1945-1946) and that of Eichmann in Jerusalem (1961). The trial of the 14 Chileans (2010) charged with kidnapping, arbitrary detention, torture and barbarous acts with regards to four French-Chileans – Jorge Klein, Etienne Pesle, Alphonse Chanfreau and Jean-Yves Claudet – during the 1973 Coup d'État in Chile and during the subsequent repression, can also be seen in its entirety over the 6 days of the week.
  • In Paris, in a reflexive approach, thematic montages that highlight the social issues encompassed by these trials that are the guarantee of democratic values.

Few of us have ever had the opportunity to enter the inner sanctum of the courtroom, to go through the process of a trial. More often, we have to content ourselves with the images from works of fiction or courtroom sketches that have etched in the collective imagination the representation of the act of adjudication.

The audio-visual exhibition Filming Trials, a Social Issue, is an unprecedented exceptional opportunity to deepen our understanding of the events, lives and key moments that make up high courtroom drama.
Filming these trials is an act that strengthens the transparency of the debates and thus plays an important role in democratic life. It provides the opportunity to bring together the combined presence of the actors, with strong personalities, the defendants and the witnesses, judges and public prosecutors, lawyers for the defendants and those for the plaintiffs. Above all, filming these trials is a social issue, one that corresponds with the essential missions of the French National Archives: providing access to the archives for all types of audiences.

The Justice Ministry's Audio-Visual Archives

Since the beginning of the 1980's, the French National Archives have led an active policy of collating raw audio-visual archives and natively digital archives, through central governmental administrative bodies, public operators and political & cultural actors with private archives. The archives conserve audio, video and film archives include more than fifty thousand items, from a diverse range of sources.
Cliquer sur l'image : Création des « archives audiovisuelles de la Justice » par la loi du 11 juillet 1985 initiée par Robert Badinter
After the strict ban on photographing and filming trials in France as of the 19th of December, 1954, the creation of the "Justice Ministry's audio-visual archives" (Law of 11th of July, 1985) founded these archives which are an exception to the general archive system (Heritage Code L221-1 to L221-5 and L222-1 to L222-3): they are freely available at the French National Archives, for scientific and historical reasons, as soon as the legal decision has become final and all means of recourse have been exhausted. Any broadcast, reproduction or re-use for commercial purposes is strictly forbidden.

The French National Archives has conserved thirteen trials filmed in this way (2600 hrs)


  • The Trial of Klaus Barbie (1987)
  • The so-called "Contaminated Blood" Trial of Doctors Garretta, Allain, Netter & Roux, the Trial and the Appeal Hearing (1992-1993)
  • The Trial of Paul Touvier (1994)
  • The Trial of Maurice Papon (1997-1998)
  • The Trial of Badinter-Faurisson (2007)

The so-called "AZF" Trial of Serge Biechlin and the Grande Paroisse Ltd, the Trial and the Appeal Hearing (2009 and 2017)

  • The Trial of the Fourteen Chileans (2010)
  • The Trial and the Appeal Hearing of Pascal Simbikangwa, also known as Senyamuhara Safari (2014 and 2016)
  • The Trial and the Appeal Hearing of Octavien Ngenzi & Tito Barahira (2016 and 2018)


Exhibition Curators
Martine Sin Blima-Barru, Heritage Conservator, Head of the Department of Digital Archiving and Audio-Visual Archives at the French National Archives.
Christian Delage, Professor at Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Director of the Institute of Current History (Institut d'Histoire du Temps Présent - CNRS), Film Director.

Regarding the Pierrefitte Exhibition

Retransmission of the Study Day held on the 22nd of October, 2020:
Multiple Perspectives on Filming Trials: filming, exhibiting, making them available
Study Day organised in conjunction with the Institute of Current History (CNRS), the Memorial of the Shoah and French National Archives, on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition Filming Trials, a Social Issue.
Find all the presentations on the French National Archives' YouTube channel.
Program {Pdf-Fr-190Ko}

  • Guided Visits by the exhibition's curators, Martine Sin Blima-Barru and Christian Delage
  • Guided Visits for individuals, Friday afternoons from 2pm to 3pm - Duration: 1 hr

Free of charge, upon reservation
For further information and booking for individuals: service-educatif.an@culture.gouv.fr

  • Visit/Workshop Images of Justice for History for school groups (10th-Grade and 12th-Grade Students)

How can we film a historical trial, the courtroom, the swearing in of all these protagonists, without compromising the tranquility of the debates or the quality of reception of those who will view them at the French National Archives? Through the analysis of several excerpts from trials presented in the exhibition, this workshop asks students to reflect on the technical, legal and historical concerns of the French Justice Ministry's audio-visual archives, as well as their public and scientific value.
Monday to Friday - Duration: 2 hrs
For further information and booking for school groups: service-educatif.an@culture.gouv.fr
Tel. 01 75 47 20 06 (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 2pm to 5:30pm; Wednesday from 9am to 12:30pm, and from 2pm to 5:30pm)

Subjective Visits
For the past few seasons, above and beyond the visits guided by the exhibition's curators, the French National Archives have offered what they call subjective visits. These consist of visits guided by individuals who may have witnessed the historic events dealt with in the exhibition or by others with unique insight into the events, complementing the comments provided by the curators.

Translation by Huw Ryan Wogiel