Daniel Holden spent 19 years on Death Row for raping and killing his girlfriend in SundanceTV’s original series RECTIFY. Though Daniel’s story is fiction, it parallels the many true cases of people who are finally freed after spending years—sometimes decades—in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Unlike Daniel’s vacated conviction (meaning he could be tried again), these convicts were exonerated. But even the exonerated have to deal with questions, suspicions and a difficult reentry into society.
Sundance Film Festival veteran, and Iconoclasts producer/director, Joe Berlinger stopped by Sundance Channel HQ right after he found out his film about the West Memphis Three, PARADISE LOST, had been nominated for an Oscar. Lucky us! Check out what Berlinger has say about some of the controversy surrounding the film, why the fight for justice isn’t over yet and how the Oscar nomination might help:
Documentary filmmaker Joe Berlinger (CRUDE, SOME KIND OF MONSTER) woke up in Park City this morning to the news his film PARADISE LOST: PURGATORY got an Oscar nomination. Berlinger stopped by the Sundance Channel HQ to talk about the honor and the twenty years he spent documenting the West Memphis Three. For those of you not familiar with the story, The West Memphis Three were teenagers convicted of murdering three young children back in 1994. Berlinger’s trilogy of films followed the young men’s trial, appeals and eventual release. Many people credit Berlinger’s films (co-directed with Bruce Sinofsky) with playing a role in securing the men’s release after 18 years in prison.
The tragic case of the West Memphis Three, three teenagers accused, tried, and convicted of a crime they did not commit, is a story that simply must be told. But it already has been told: in a trilogy of superb documentaries entitled PARADISE LOST by directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. Over the course of almost twenty years, Berlinger and Sinofsky chronicled the lives of the West Memphis Three — Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, and Jason Baldwin — and systematically disproved the case against them. So the news of a brand-new documentary on the subject entitled WEST OF MEMPHIS was met by many with skepticism and confusion. Even with its impressive creative pedigree — it was produced by Peter Jackson (THE LORD OF THE RINGS) and directed by Amy Berg (DELIVER US FROM EVIL) — some observers worried this documentary would simply rehash elements from the other three films. As a follower of the West Memphis Three’s case and a fan of the PARADISE LOST series (you can read my review of the last film here), I know I was.