If you still feel a little confused when you hear the phrase “West Memphis Three,” never fear. The documentary West of Memphis is almost here. Oscar-winner Peter Jackson produced director Amy Berg‘s Sundance darling, which concludes a controversial and epic saga that began in 1994 when three boys from West Memphis (hence “West Memphis Three”) were tried and conviced of murder.
In 1996, a film called Paradise Lost shed new light on the case, painting the boys as innocent, and sparked an overwhelming ground swell of support from all walks of life, eventually leading to their release. Along the way, the directors of Paradise Lost – Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky – released two more films, the last of which was just nominated for an Academy Award. West of Memphis is sort of the authoritative amalgamation of those three films with a strong and much more specific focus on the end of the saga.
The film had its world premiere at Sundance in January and picked up mostly rave reviews. (Here’s mine). Now, Sony Pictures Classics has finally acquired the film for domestic distribution.
Variety broke the news of Sony Picture Classics’ acquisition. Unfortunately, there’s no word on when the film might be released. A safe assumption, though, would be in the Summer or Fall.
Variety also and ran the follow statements. First from the film’s director, Amy Berg:
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 [Echols], Jason [Baldwin] and Jessie [Misskelley]. 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.
Second from producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh:
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.
And third from producers Damien Echols, one of the WM3 and his wife Lorri Davis:
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.
West of Memphis is a must see for anyone who has even been caught up in the unbelievable facts of this case. Are you pumped it now has a distributor?