The star power that came out in defense of the West Memphis Three was remarkable and now there’s added juice behind an eventual dramatic film version. Oscar-winner Colin Firth has just joined previously cast Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon in Devil’s Knot, the first narrative feature (after several documentaries) concerning the complicated yet fascinating subject of the West Memphis Three. It’ll be directed by Atom Egoyan and is based on the non-fiction book by Mara Leveritt.

Firth will play Ron Lax, a private investigator who was instrumental in finding key evidence that raised considerable doubt as to the guilt of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley. Witherspoon will play Pam Hobbs, the mother of victim Steven Branch and the wife of the man believed to have committed the crimes. There’s more after the jump. Read More »

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The Lord of the Rings saved the West Memphis Three. It sounds like a crazy statement but one of the many things a viewer takes from Amy Berg‘s breathtakingly detailed and effective documentary West of Memphis is that co-producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh spent a lot of time, and even more money, to assist in the legal defense, new investigations and expert testimony which eventually lead to the 2011 release of the West Memphis Three, three men accused of murdering three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993. Jackson and Walsh got a lot of their money from The Lord of the Rings so, put two and two together, and the statement seems less crazy.

Jumping off where Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky took off with their Paradise Lost documentary trilogy, Berg’s film makes Purgatory, the latest of Berlinger and Sinofsky’s movies, feel elementary. It expands greatly on all of the revelations on that film, and provides new ones of its own that were filmed as recently as January 12, 2012. Whereas the first Paradise Lost was the definitive documentary on the beginning of this massive, controversial case, West of Memphis is the definitive documentary on its conclusion. Read More »

When we started to hear about West of Memphis, the new documentary about the West Memphis Three (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley) produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, and directed by Amy Berg, the big question was: what will this movie offer?

The movie was born out of an investigation funded by Jackson and Walsh that seeks to find the real identity of the killer who ended the lives of three young boys in 1993. And it turns out the film might have an ace up its sleeve. While the first press screening is going on right now in Sundance, a press release has been sent out announcing that the movie reveals testimony from three witnesses who bolster accusations that the murders were really committed by a man named Terry Hobbs.

Hobbs was the stepfather of one of the murder victims, and has long been linked to the case via DNA evidence. His ex-wife Pamela Hobbs, the birth mother of one of the victims, has called for the case to be re-opened, and has proclaimed her belief that the West Memphis Three are innocent.

The info is after the break. Read More »

Yesterday we showed you the poster for West of Memphis, the West Memphis Three documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh and directed by Amy Berg. At the time I wondered what new ground this doc would find when the story has been so thoroughly covered by Joel Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost films.

Now there is a lively trailer for West of Memphis, which will premiere at Sundance. The trailer shows a bit of the specific approach the film takes to telling the story of the West Memphis Three and the murder trial that swirled around them. The movie is part of an effort to exonerate the trio and find the real killer of three young boys who were murdered in 1993. Read More »

Months after we first heard of Atom Egoyan‘s planned feature about the West Memphis Three, the project has found its first star. Reese Witherspoon has boarded The Devil’s Knot, based on reporter Mara Leveritt‘s 2003 nonfiction book which chronicled the 1994 trials that put two teenagers in prison for life and another on death row for the murder of three eight-year-old boys, despite a lack of physical evidence. After years of appeals, the three men were finally freed this summer. More details after the jump.

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The West Memphis ThreeJason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley Jr., and Damien Echols — may be free, but their story isn’t over. Driven to enter guilty pleas and accept ‘time served’ sentences in order to return to the free world, the men are saddled with felony records for crimes that very few believe were ever proved to be their responsibility. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, who brought the Three to global attention with the documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, are prepping their third movie about the WM3, which will premiere soon at TIFF before hitting the New York Film Festival and finally playing on HBO.

HBO now thinks there could be a fourth film to be made about the case, based on the manner in which the WM3 had to plead guilty in order to become free. And, in a related note, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh continue to support the WM3 by further bankrolling an investigation into the people truly responsible for the murders of three 8-year old boys in 1993. Read More »

Last week saw the dramatic end to the story of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., aka the West Memphis Three. The trio were the subject of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky‘s documentary Paradise Lost in 1996. That film told of how the three young men had been tried and convicted for the murders of three 8-year old boys in 1993, despite a lack of any physical evidence. (The three were convicted in part because of supposed Satanist leanings and interests in metal and the occult.) The fact that the three are free is wonderful, but that freedom was obtained not through exoneration, but by pleading guilty to the murders and being released with time served for the 18 years each has spent in prison. It’s hardly justice.

Berlinger and Sinofsky were almost finished with their third documentary about the case, and are talking about how the end of the case will be reflected in their film. And Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan has announced his plan to make a dramatic feature based on the case. Finally, Peter Jackson, who along with Fran Walsh, Eddie Vedder, Johhny Depp and others contributed to the WM3′s defense fund, has responded to the end of the case. Read More »

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