'Paradise Lost Trilogy, The Complete West Memphis Three Case, on DVD
Documentary filmmaking about the West Memphis Three case is again in the spotlight, with the upcoming U.S. theatrical release of Amy Berg's West of Memphis scheduled for December 25, and the recent release of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky's Paradise Lost Trilogy on DVD.
If the ongoing, well-publicized West Memphis Three case has by any chance eluded you, it began back in 1994, following the grizzly murder of three eight-year old boys in the town of West Memphis, Arkansas, and the questionable -- and now proved wrongful -- conviction of three local teenage boys-- profiled by police as 'Satan worshipers' -- for the gruesome crime.
From the time of the first 'West Memphis Three' trial, through subsequent hearings, massive public protests and private negotiations, and up until the 2011 release of Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jesse Misskelly Jr., the entire judicial process was closely observed by filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. Early on, the filmmakers became convinced that the convicted lads were innocent. Berlinger and Sinofsky's heroic persistence in following the case and their convincing, well-researched and constructed films undoubtedly influenced its outcome.
Supported by Sheila Nevins at HBO Documentaries, the filmmakers produced and released three Paradise Lost documentaries, each introducing new information as it was uncovered, each elucidating current interpretations of the case, and each advancing audience understand of it.
The Dramatic Release
The third film's premiere coincided dramatically with the release of the West Memphis Three from life sentences prison. Now adults, they had done long and completely unwarranted time in jail and unfortunately, as explained in the third Paradise Lost film, the lads have still not been fully exonerated. Nor has the true murderer been identified, tried and sentenced to punishment.
But with release of the West Memphis Three and widespread celebration of their freedom, filmmakers Berlinger and Sinofsky brought their long-standing involvement with the case to a conclusion.
"The case and the films represent a major part of my work -- and Bruce Sinofsky's -- as a filmmaker. I'm gratified that the work has been effective and recognized, and hope the films continue to shed light on the case and a true miscarriage of justice. But for me, with the release the Paradise Lost Trilogy, it's a good time to focus on new projects. And, yes, I'm developing something specific, but it's too early in the process for me to divulge much about it," said Joe Berlinger in a recent phone interview.
In its entirety, the Paradise Lost Trilogy provides rare insights not only into the US judicial system, but also into the investigative. sometimes grueling and doggedly determined process of documentary filmmaking, itself. Additionally, the DVD's extras -- previously unseen footage, new commentaries and other items -- offer further insights. The DVD set is an invaluable resource for conscientious citizens who consider it their (our) obligation to see to it that their (our) justice system works fairly and efficiently.
Passing on the Mantle
Documentary coverage of the West Memphis Three case is continuing, however, under the watchful eye of Amy Berg, whose film West of Memphis is due for theatrical release on December 25, distributed by Sony Classics. Produced by the Hobbitual Peter Jackson, who has contributed substantial funding and influence to the quest to resolve the West Memphis Three case, West of Memphis focuses on efforts to identify and convict the actual murderer of the three boys. With new evidence revealed and additional injustices exposed, the film is an important addition to the West Memphis Three canon.
Again, the release date for West of Memphis is December 25, but before seeing it, do prepare for the advances the film makes on this ongoing story by becoming thoroughly familiar with its past details via the complete Paradise Lost Trilogy on DVD, which is now available, and is highly recommended.