Review

Mariska Hargitay advocates for sexual assault victims in documentary 'I Am Evidence'

When Mariska Hargitay took on the role of Det. Olivia Benson on the NBC series “Law & Order: SVU,” she didn’t expect the letters from sexual assault survivors that started pouring in. It became Hargitay’s mission, through her Joyful Heart Foundation, to advocate for survivors, including tackling the problem of untested rape kits.

That work is manifested in the documentary “I Am Evidence” — produced by Hargitay, who also serves as an on-screen guide, and directed by Trish Adlesic, a documentarian and former “SVU” producer, and Geeta Gandbhir.

“I Am Evidence” is a searing, lucid film that never shies from tough details, especially when survivors share their attacks in a powerful bearing of witness. The film is also a legal thriller focusing on three American cities — Detroit, Cleveland and Los Angeles — grappling with tens of thousands of untested rape kits. Los Angeles is far behind the other cities in even addressing the issue.

Though “I Am Evidence” processes a tremendous amount of data and information, it’s a deeply personal and intimate film. However distressing it may be, it leaves room for hope, showing how rape kits bring justice and presenting instances where law enforcement training has evolved to better serve victims.

Ultimately, it positions the system as the villain, with journalists and filmmakers as necessary allies to expose problems in order to effect change. It couldn’t be more timely.

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‘I Am Evidence’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena

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