The West Memphis 3 will get to see in person the recut version of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s documentary about them — the one that has been recut to reflect the trio’s release from jail after 18 years served for the murders of three Arkansas 8-year-olds in 1993. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory is screening for the first time in its newest version Monday at the New York Film Festival, and Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley Jr will be there, the fest’s organizer the Film Society of Lincoln Center said today. The original version of the HBO Documentary Films pic screened as-is during last month’s Toronto International Film Festival as the filmmakers didn’t have time to add the fresh ending, which showed the men’s release. The trio’s original conviction — derived despite the lack of physical evidence tying the then-teenagers to the murders — became a cause celebre, and the West Memphis 3 have received moral and financial support from the likes of The Hobbit director Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines. Meanwhile, there already is a feature film in the works with Atom Egoyan directing; Devil’s Knot is set to begin shooting in the spring.
While Paradise Lost documentary directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky told me last night they intended to change the ending of Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory to reflect today’s stunning developments before they premiered the movie at next month’s Toronto International Film Festival, the filmmakers have instead decided to leave the film alone for Toronto and install a new ending for the New York Film Festival in October, or even for its January debut on HBO. The filmmakers rushed to Arkansas last night to film defendants Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr as they tasted freedom after 18 years. Berlinger and Sinofsky were nearly done with their third documentary on the case, which they feel was a tremendous travesty of justice that left Echols on death row and the other two serving life terms for the brutal murder of three 8-year-old boys in 1993. Those convictions were made without any physical evidence.
“We’ve made the decision to let the film play as is in Toronto,” Berlinger just told me. “We worked on it for a long time and it didn’t seem right to rush a new ending. We’ll tack on one more scene that changes the ending from a question mark to a joyous triumphant moment, but we’ll aim for the New York Film Festival or for HBO.”
EXCLUSIVE: After the West Memphis 3 murder defendants were released from prison today after 18 years, it seemed like just a matter of time before the movie crowd got involved because the case is so controversial and became a cause celebre with the likes of Johnny Depp and Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Turns out that there is a feature film that already has a screenplay and a major director, ready to start production by the spring. Devil’s Knot is an under $20 million feature that has The Sweet Hereafter and Chloe director Atom Egoyan aboard to direct a script that was originally written by Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman, the team behind The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Egoyan has spent the last six weeks working with Boardman on a rewrite.