Sony Pictures Classics Acquires Peter Jackson-produced West Memphis Three Documentary WEST OF MEMPHIS

     February 29, 2012

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.

west-of-memphis-posterHere’s the full press release:

NEW YORK (February 29, 2012) – Sony Pictures Classics announced today that they have acquired worldwide rights to Academy Award® nominated filmmaker Amy Berg’s (DELIVER US FROM EVIL) high profile documentary WEST OF MEMPHIS.  The film debuted at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival in the Documentary Premiere Section to great critical acclaim.  WEST OF MEMPHIS is produced by the Academy Award-winning team of Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, and first time producers Damien Echols and Lorri Davis.

WEST OF MEMPHIS is a powerful documentary that chronicles the new investigation surrounding the “West Memphis Three,” which ultimately broke the case open and led to the freedom of three innocent men: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. Beginning with a searing examination of the fatally flawed police investigation into the 1993 murders of three, eight year old boys in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas, the film goes on to reveal personal insight into Echols’ fight to save his own life; how he survived eighteen years on death row and eventually freed himself from the hatred and ignorance of those who had tried to destroy him.  The film asks the question that still haunts Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley to this day – what value do we, as a society place on the truth?

“In 2009 Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Lorri Davis approached me to make a film which documented the defense’s battle to overturn the guilty verdicts in the case of the West Memphis Three. After spending more than two years on the ground filming in Arkansas, the blatant injustice of the case was very apparent; my hope is that WEST OF MEMPHIS will lead to full exoneration for Damien, Jason and Jessie. In addition, I hope the film will serve as a platform for a broader discussion about the failures of our criminal justice system nationwide. I’m very excited for this powerful story to be making its way to theaters and know that having Sony Pictures Classics as our partner is the surest way to catapult our film to the widest possible audience,” says Director Amy Berg.

Producers Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson add, “We are very proud to be partnering with Sony Pictures Classics on the release of WEST OF MEMPHIS. We have been working with Lorri Davis, Damien Echols and his defense team for the past seven years, and during that time we came to understand that this was not just a story of a terrible injustice; it’s also a story about hope; about how two people found each other, saved each other, and loved each other through the hardest of times. This is Damien and Lorri’s film, and we are very excited to share it with the world.”

“We are honored that Sony Pictures Classics will be working with us to bring WEST OF MEMPHIS to the world. We are excited and quite frankly overwhelmed at the chance to tell our own story. Working with Fran, Peter and Amy has been the most powerful and fulfilling of experiences for us. We see this film as a source of inspiration, and it carries our heart and soul with it,” say producers Lorri Davis and Damien Echols.

“With DELIVER US FROM EVIL, Amy Berg became a major documentary filmmaker.   Seeing WEST OF MEMPHIS at Sundance, we felt Amy had outdone herself with this extraordinary anatomy and investigation of injustice.  We look forward to collaborating with her and producers Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Damien Echols and Lorri Davis in bringing this exciting and important drama to audiences everywhere,” states Sony Pictures Classics.

SPC negotiated the deal with Jackson and Walsh’s manager, Ken Kamins, who also serves as the film’s Executive Producer.  Sony Pictures Classics has previously worked with Kamins on John Boorman’s THE GENERAL.

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  • Mike

    I REALLY want to see this documentary. I hope it comes out sooner rather than later, because I found the three “Paradise Lost” documentaries to be really important, and I think that this can be even more important.

    The West Memphis Three case is so messed up in so many aspects that it’s incredible that those three men served jail time at all, and I hope this documentary sheds a light on it and inspires a prosecutor to re-open the case and find the actual killer.

  • west memphis three facts

    They were not “innocent men” nor were they “falsely convicted.”

    Many believe the 3 committed the crime. The one sided movies and websites about this case leave out the evidence showing why they were found guilty. Yet they were found guilty once and plead guilty a second time.

    Misskelley confessed three separate times, once with his lawyer present. Misskelley also told two other people about the crime before he was arrested. Baldwin told someone else he committed the crimes. Echols was seen in muddy clothes near the crime scene. Echols is reported to have either told or bragged about the crime to four people before he was arrested. Echols had a history of psychiatric treatment and psychotic behavior. His reported actions included brutally killing a dog, starting fires at his school, threatening to kill his teachers and parents and stating he liked to drink blood.

  • Chelly

    So, you are believing hearsay as evidence of their guilt? The guy that Jason supposedly told in Juvenile Detention, finally said, he was taking ACID trips then and lied about it, Jessie was interrogated for 12 hrs. but only 45 mins of it was taped and if you listen to it you can hear the officers TELLING HIM, what happened and you don’t hear them saying he could get the reward money $30,000 to get his daddy a truck he wanted, do you? Oh and that Jessie IQ is 72 then? He even says he was tired and just began repeating back to them what they wanted to hear,(no lawuer present, and no parental consent until LATER, not the first time they took him in to question..hmmm I wonder if you would like to trade places with Jessie then? And he took a polygraph test, they came back and told him he DID NOT PASS it, when he REALLY did!! When Terry Hobbs was questioned they got his DNA off a cigarette butt from his ashtray, he did not give it voluntarily…and then he wasnt questioned by police until 2007? Why werent the family members questioned first? Have you asked yourself ANY of these questions? Or you just believe whatever ANYONE says? Have you really delved into the case and evidence. A kife was found in a Lake behind Jason’s house ? How do they know it was his? No finger prints on it… maybe it had his name on it? And that was mos. later it was found by the Prosecutor, saying “hey go look in the lake and see if you can find a knife”? And miraculously, an *hour* later, a diver came up with a knife? COME ON, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? All three of them had alibi’s as to where they were but the police, just wouldn’t look into them, see if they were telling the truth where they were at the time the police say they were murdered? The Coroner couldn’t even say EXACTLY what the time of death was! I think you really need to go do your research a LOT more of the case on Callahan’s site, look at the pics. None of those 2 boys wore the tennis shoes(print) found on the ditch.. L.A. GEAR! They wore boots! There is a picture of that print on Callahan’s site… Someone, knocked them out, then tied them up, and used the hog ties to CARRY them to the ditch..because there was NO BLOOD where they were found. HMMM… another weird thing about that huh?

  • UAV

    To the moron above, you need to get your facts straight, Mrs. “I’m living in 93″ still and can’t get around the WM3 are free!

    All three confessions don’t even match up to what actually happened at the crime scene. You can go online and read them for yourself. What about the other (2) people he allegedly confessed to. Oh yea, the never made it to the stand, LOL

    Baldwin never mentioned it to anyone else. The person whom you are referring to, is in the actual movie the article is about, and recants everything he says. (thank goodness Sony picked this up SO YOU CAN SEE THIS)

    Elchols was seen around the woods on the highway at the crime ( not at the actual scene in the woods) scene with his girl friend, who the one person cant even be sure that was even her. But can tell they had muddy clothes. Other people were in the same car as the witness and yet never agreed to what was seen.

    Elhols apparently bragged to a group of people that he killed the boys, yet the group were never called to the stand. Just 3 young teenage girls who walked by and heard him say this.

    The rest of the psychiatric stuff is just BS. You can read the Docs yourself and see he was not in a danger to anyone. You are just looking for excuses. Its already been shown that all the EX 500 docs are BS.

    You people need to go look into the Step Father of one of the slain boys, Terry Hobbs. His only witness, David Jacoby, has already refuted his claim of being with him on the night of the murders. Terry has holes all in his story. In his deposition, he practically gives his motive away. You think Paradise Lost 1 thru 3 were great, wait till this bad boy hits the circuit.

  • Fishmonger Dave

    I’m simply astounded that there are still people out there who believe the WM3 are guilty.

    They cite Jessie’s statements. Take the time and READ THEM. They are ridiculous at best – they’re online at dpdlaw (dot) com / jmstatements.htm . Only someone with an IQ lower than Jessie’s could possibly cite these as a basis to believe in guilt. They’re internally inconsistent and don’t align with ANY of the physical evidence – not one piece.

    They cite Damien’s psych issues, as if this substituted for evidence. There was not a single hair, fingerprint, footprint, drop of blood, or strand of DNA that linked back to the WM3. In spite of Damien having shoulder length black hair and always wearing Army boots, which leave a somewhat distinctive print.

    Asserting that the WM3 are guilty does nothing more than make you look foolish.

    Even the victims’ families (with the exception of the Moores, who refused to meet with the investigators in 2007) have seen the truth. The WM3 aren’t guilty. Hobbs most probably is.