The documentary West of Memphis, from director Amy Berg and producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, tells the story behind the fight to stop the state of Arkansas from killing an innocent man. While it examines the police investigation into the 1993 murders of three eight-year-old boys in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas, the film also uncovers new evidence surrounding the arrest and conviction of the three other victims – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, who became known as the West Memphis 3 – who were imprisoned for 18 years for crimes they did not commit.
At the film’s press day, filmmaker Amy Berg spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how she came to be a part of this moving and powerful story, the aspects of the case that stuck out the most once she started delving into it, the unique challenges in taking on something that was constantly changing and evolving, going through 800 hours of footage for the editing process, her thoughts on the Alford plea deal that ultimately got the three men out of prison, and what it was like to collaborate with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. She also talked about the first narrative feature she’ll be directing in the Spring, called Every Secret Thing, which is a drama about a detective who looks to unravel a mystery surrounding missing children, that stars Diane Lane. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
A new trailer for the documentary West of Memphis has been released. Produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, the film chronicles the investigation surrounding the “West Memphis Three”, a trio of innocent men who were wrongly convicted of murdering three young boys in Arkansas in 1993 despite the fact that there was no evidence linking them to the crime. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. served nearly 20 years in prison (Echols on death row), before finally being released late last year through legalese that required them to maintain their guilt. It’s an incredibly frustrating story, and I’m interested to see how director Amy Berg’s film differentiates itself from the Paradise Lost trilogy of documentaries that helped prove the trio’s innocence.
Hit the jump to watch the new trailer, and click here to read our review of the film from the Toronto Film Festival. West of Memphis opens on December 25th.
Elizabeth Banks and Diane Lane are poised to team up for the crime drama Every Secret Thing. Merced Media Partners, Palmstar, and Hyde Park announced today that they will be financing director Amy Berg’s (Deliver Us From Evil) drama from a script by Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Friends with Money). The story centers on Ronnie and Alice, who were convicted for the murder of a baby when they were just 11-years-old and were incarcerated until they turned 18. While attempting to adjust to live outside juvenile detention, children start to go missing and the police turn their attention once again to Ronnie and Alice. The mystery surrounding the original murder still looms overhead, and their roles in it take center stage in what sounds like an intriguing character drama.
Filming is set to get underway in February 2013, with Frances McDormand onboard as a producer. That makes quite the line-up both in front of and behind the camera for this promising crime drama. Berg most recently directed the Peter Jackson-produced documentary West of Memphis, which documents the wrongful conviction of the West Memphis 3. Hit the jump to read the full press release for Every Secret Thing.
by Phil Brown Posted: September 7th, 2012 at 8:38 am
This time last year TIFF held the world premiere of Paradise Lost 3, the latest chapter of the ongoing documentary series about the West Memphis Three, a group of teenagers (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley) who in 1993 were wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to either life in prison or death sentences. That was an odd film to watch at the time as the three men were finally set free mere weeks before the film festival following bizarre guilty pleas (while maintaining innocence), but the movie was completed too late to mention it.
It’s not a huge surprise that another documentary about the case would find its way to TIFF this year given the unexpectedly abrupt ending to the last Paradise Lost film. What is a bit odd is that this movie doesn’t come from Paradise Lost directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, but an entirely new team in producer Peter Jackson (nuff said) and director Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil). Viewed entirely on its own merits, West of Memphis is an intriguing overview of the case. It’s just not quite as resonant as the Paradise Lost series and it’s a real shame that those filmmakers weren’t allowed to properly conclude their series. Hit the jump for my review.
Following its much-anticipated premiere at last month’s Sundance Film Festival, Sony Pictures Classics has acquired worldwide rights to director Amy Berg’s documentary West of Memphis. Produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, the film chronicles the new investigation surrounding the “West Memphis Three”, a trio of innocent men who were wrongly convicted of murdering three young boys in Arkansas in 1993 despite the fact that there was no evidence linking them to the crime. Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. served nearly 20 years in prison (Echols on death row), before finally being released late last year. West of Memphis not only follows the fight to free the innocent men, but also seeks to provide evidence that convicts the true perpetrator of the crime.
I’m pleased to see that Sony Pictures Classics is handling the distribution, as I’m itching to get a look at the film. It premiered to positive reviews at Sundance, and Echols is actually a credited producer on the pic. There’s no word on what kind of distribution model is planned, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s given an awards push later this year. Hit the jump to watch the powerful trailer, followed by the full press release.
The trial, conviction, and release of the West Memphis Three have been well covered on many fronts over the past 16 years. The documentary trilogy Paradise Lost was tantamount to the eventual release of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jesse Misskelley, who were convicted of murdering three young boys in 1994. While the State of Arkansas released the trio through a legal loophole that maintained their guilt (thus protecting the state from a multi-million dollar wrongful conviction lawsuit), the killer remains at large. A new documentary produced by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Echols called West of Memphis premiered at the Sundance Film Festival today and revealed a breakthrough in evidence against one of the victims’ stepfathers, who has been the primary person of interest since new DNA testing connected him to the crime. Hit the jump to find out what evidence may finally exonerate the West Memphis Three.
The first trailer for the documentary West of Memphis has gone online. Produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, the film takes a new look at the circumstances surrounding the West Memphis Three. If you’re unfamiliar with the case, three teenagers were convicted of murdering three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1994 with virtually no evidence. They were recently freed through a complicated legal maneuver (saving the life of Damien Echols, who was on death row), but the true killer remains at large and the Arkansas legal system is refusing to admit their mistake.
The case has been well covered by the Paradise Lost trilogy of documentaries, so I was curious as to why Jackson felt the need to produce yet another documentary. This trailer makes clear that Jackson and director Amy Berg’s intent is to clear the names of the West Memphis Three and bring to justice the real murderer of the three boys from West Memphis. It’s engaging stuff, and I can’t wait to check the full film out once it’s released. Hit the jump to watch the trailer. West of Memphis will premiere at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival.