2012 Sundance Docs in Focus: WEST OF MEMPHIS

Closing out this year’s Documentary Premieres: WEST OF MEMPHIS, Amy Berg’s investigation into the case of the West Memphis Three and their grassroots supporters.

Sundance Program Description:

For many people, the case of the West Memphis Three has become synonymous with wrongful conviction. Despite a lack of physical evidence, three Arkansas teenagers were found guilty in 1994 of the ritual murder of three eight-year-old boys. Media attention led to an outpouring of support that has helped to keep them in the public consciousness for nearly two decades.

Director Amy Berg examines the crime and its aftermath, providing a voice for the victims’ families, including those with doubts about whether the right people are behind bars. Rather than focus on the accused, the film follows their supporters—including loved ones, attorneys, and celebrity advocates such as Eddie Vedder and Peter Jackson—as they seek the truth. With the help of a former FBI profiler, a less sensational, yet still chilling, motive and suspect emerge—ones, shockingly, never investigated.

With compelling, immediate access, WEST OF MEMPHIS follows the story of the West Memphis Three to its dramatic and unexpected conclusion, raising serious questions about justice and its compromises.

Some Background:
Berg’s feature documentary debut, DELIVER US FROM EVIL, was nominated for an Academy Award after winning numerous festival awards. She was also the producer of Sundance alum BHUTTO (2010) by directors Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara. On the production side, the film counts THE LORD OF THE RINGS’ Peter Jackson as a producer, whose DEAD/ALIVE (1993) screened at Sundance. Jackson’s producing partner Fran Walsh also serves the same role for Berg’s latest, as does Ken Kamins (executive producer of DISTRICT 9, THE LOVELY BONES, THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN, and Jackson’s upcoming HOBBIT films). Rounding out the producers are one of the West Memphis Three, Damien Wayne Echols, and his wife and noted WM3 activist, Lorri Davis.

Why You Should Watch:
Viewers unfamiliar with the story of the West Memphis Three will receive a dramatic crash course in the nearly two decade long case which many believe was a gross miscarriage of justice. For those who do know the story, Berg’s film delves into the community of passionate supporters of the accused, such as producer Davis, exploring how and why they have been driven to fight for their exoneration and release over so many years.

More Info:
Check out the doc’s website and Facebook page. Its trailer may be found here. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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