Just released from prison, the West Memphis Three -- Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. -- will make their first public appearance at the New York Film Festival (NYFF) premiere of Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, the third and last of the documentary series in which filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, over an 18-year period, followed their case and made known to the world the circumstances of their wrongful convictions.
The documentaries showed that the convictions were based on no credible evidence, and they helped to create a huge community of West Memphis Three supporters -- including Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, Johnny Depp, Hobbit director, Peter Jackson and other celebrities, and countless good citizens who believe in upholding justice -- who pressured authorities to reconsider the convictions.
Just several weeks ago, Echols was on death row, and Baldwin and Misskelley were facing life imprisonment.
Ultimately, their release, so long fought for, happened so suddenly that Berlinger and Sinofsky had to re-edit Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, updating the film for its official premiere on October 10, 2011.
Despite very welcome release of the West Memphis Three from prison, the film title's reference to purgatory is still appropriate. In order to be set free, Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley, who've consistently claimed innocence in the murder of three young boys, had to take the 'Alford plea,' according to which they had to admit their guilt of the crime. The absolute irony of that bizarrely twisted play on justice does leave Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley -- and all people who wish to believe in the logic of the law -- in purgatory, of sorts. West Memphis Three supporters are now clamoring for their exoneration. Perhaps the documentary will require another update.
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory is not scheduled for theatrical release, so if you can't see it at NYFF or in another special screening, look for its broadcast premiere on HBO in January, 2012 -- hopefully with a new ending.
Meanwhile, you can watch the trailer.
(PHOTO: Damien Echols and filmmaker Joe Berlinger in 'Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory.' Courtesy HBO).