Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Paradise Lost" doc-makers to add new ending after prison release of West Memphis 3

Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky raised serious doubts in their 1996 documentary about the guilt of the teenagers accused of killing a trio of children in West Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993. Now, 18 years later, with new DNA evidence, the convicted men have been set free, and a follow-up doc, to premiere at Toronto next month, gets a new ending.

“Paradise Lost” doc-makers to add new ending after prison release of West Memphis 3

Directors Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger flank now-freed Death Row inmate Damien Echols.
Directors Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger flank now-freed Death Row inmate Damien Echols.

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.

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
About this blog

Steven Rea has been an Inquirer movie critic since 1992. He was born in London, raised in New York City, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa City, Iowa. His column, "On Movies," appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment, his reviews appear in the Weekend section on Fridays, and his blog, On Movies Online, can be found here. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

Steven Rea's previous blog posts can be found here. Read his most recent columns and reviews, here. He is the author of the book “Hollywood Rides a Bike,” and also curates the movie stars and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike.

Reach Steven at srea@phillynews.com.

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected