Barack Obama, Mumia Abu-Jamal and the death penalty

If you missed 'In Prison My Whole Life' at the Belfast Film Festival last April, there's another chance to see it tonight and tomorrow at Belfast's Queen's Film Theatre.

It's a powerful, fast-moving film documentary, dealing with the troubling case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been on death row for decades for the murder of Irish-American police officer Danny Faulkner

The film is about a lot more than just this one case and deals with the deep racial and social fissures in American society and the chronic problems of its criminal justice system – all seen through the eyes of young British journalist Wiliam Francome and his many interviewees: everyone from Noam Chomsky to Mos Def to Steve Earle.

I blogged more extensvely about this film last year and I thoroughly recommend it, all the more now on the eve of the inauguration of the country's first African-American President. Amid all the hope and hype that this event is currently inspiring, this film starkly reminds one of just a few of the challenges facing the incoming Administration.

Obama is, of course - at least for electoral purposes - a supporter of the death penalty for the 'worst cases'. Obama's big test on this issue, as David Wilson has pointed out on CiF, will be the replacement of US Supreme Court judges likely to retire or expire during his term(s) of office:

"…if he really does want the United States to "lead the world" he should be mindful that every western democratic legal jurisdiction has its own appalling crimes to deal with and that we have all managed to cope without resorting to capital punishment."

My colleague Fionna Smyth introduces this evening's film screening and will be making Amnesty campaign actions on the death penalty available to audience members.

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