Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills came out in 1996 and shook up not only the documentary world, but the criminal justice world, too, with its investigation into the rape, mutilation and killing of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993, and the subsequent arrest and trials of a trio of goth-y, geeky teenagers -- Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelly. Despite all sorts of flawed and contradictory evidence and testimony, the so-called West Memphis 3 were convicted in the murders. Two were sentenced to life behind bars, and Echols was put on Death Row.
Last week, after months of negotiation between defense lawyers and the Arkansas district attorney’s office – and after DNA tests, unavailable at the time of the trial, cleared the defendants – the three men, now in their 30s, were released. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, the co-directors of Paradise Lost, have been following the case and its dark, disturbing developments for the last two decades. In 2000, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, was released, starting a movement to free the West Memphis 3. Next month, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, with a new ending being worked on as we speak, will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It's set to debut on HBO in January, 2012.