Two years ago we screened Vincenzo Marra’s very fine second feature film, Vento di terra, and introduced Toronto audiences to one of Italy’s most talented young filmmakers. The Session Is Open is a documentary employing a classical cinéma-vérité style as it follows the appeal trial of a member of the notorious Neopolitan Camorra who has been convicted of an assassination. This extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at the Italian judicial system will have you raising your eyebrows in disbelief; certainly those Italians who have seen the film have been gob-smacked by what actually goes on. Perhaps things do need changing. Marra focuses on three fascinating individuals. The avuncular, patrician President of the Jury presides over the appeals process. His colleague, an advising magistrate who sits with him on the bench, is an overworked, harried woman who has largely been responsible for the prosecution of this case. The final figure is the defence lawyer, a homely, dishevelled man who is renowned for challenging state convictions and defending the Camorra’s interests, but who is nevertheless a devout Catholic. As these three go about their business, the film gently peels away the veneer of mystique that ordinarily surrounds the justice system. The President publishes opinionated newspaper articles, while the advising magistrate is kept busy searching for evidence that may have gone missing, while constantly finding herself locked out of her own office! The whole process has an ad hoc sense of casual amiability to it, so it really comes as no surprise when the President and the magistrate sit down with the jury to celebrate what looks to be their last session on this case – and between bites of salami and sips of wine the cork comes out of the bottle in more ways than one. Marra believes that he is not just highlighting the idiosyncrasies of the system; indeed, he is exposing its true colours. The film is entirely observational; there is no narration and we must come to our own conclusions. Italians may wonder why their judicial system is not delivering. Marra offers visual evidence of some of the problems.