Check Out Our New Look

Q&A: ‘Whitey’s Joe Berlinger On Finding Great Docu Subjects From Mobsters To Metallica And The West Memphis 3

By | Sunday June 29, 2014 @ 6:31pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Q&A: ‘Whitey’s Joe Berlinger On Finding Great Docu Subjects From Mobsters To Metallica And The West Memphis 3If all filmmaking is struggle, none struggle harder than the documentary director who: searches for truth and injustice; raises the money to expose it; fights to escape the common result of barely leaving a festival footprint before vanishing; and then starting all over. Joe Berlinger has fared better than most. An argument could be made he and ex-partner Bruce Sinofsky helped reassemble the band Metallica, and it’s indisputable they kept one member of the so-called West Memphis 3 from being executed and the other two from dying in jail for the murder of three Arkansas children prosecution said was part of a satanic ritual, though it offered no physical evidence.

joebBerlinger’s gone solo as Magnolia this weekend released Whitey: United States Of America V. James J. Bulger. Hollywood loves the story of the ruthless Boston mob boss who used his station as protected FBI informant to build a criminal empire and get rid of rivals. Johnny Depp plays Bulger in an upcoming Warner Bros film, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are percolating another, and Jack Nicholson played a composite in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winner The Departed. Berlinger takes an unexpected path into a familiar story. What if, as Bulger and his lawyers claim, he was not a rat, but a pawn to obscure widespread law enforcement corruption? Berlinger chases that thread while following survivors of Bulger murder victims who sought truth when Bulger was finally captured and put on trial. Here, Berlinger talks about the documentary life, how luck plays a part in great docus, and about processing the shocking death of Oscar-winning Searching For Sugar Man director Malik Bendjelloul.

DEADLINE: The Paradise Lost trilogy you and Bruce Sinofsky made kept Damien Echols from being executed, and Jessie Misskelley Jr and Jason Baldwin from dying in prison. What compelled you to make a film that explores the alibi of a notorious criminal like Bulger?
JOE BERLINGER: The film in no way is a Bulger apology. Bulger was a vicious, brutal killer who did terrible things, but he was enabled by the government, he was allowed to kill. You know the accepted story about Bulger that people have written books and made movies about; he was an FBI informant. It’s bad enough as an FBI informant, FBI agents look the other way and in some cases aided and abetted some murders by giving him information. This is the first time Bulger has ever been heard from. Despite the glut of media, the dozen books, the Affleck-Damon movie, the fictionalized version in The Departed, as the film unfolds you see there is very strong evidence he may have not been an informant at all. Read More »

Comments (1)

Hot Comic-Con Trailer: ‘Metallica: Through The Never’

By | Friday July 19, 2013 @ 10:08pm PDT

Not much to say here, right? If you dig the band, you’ll dig the new trailer for Metallica: Through The Never, which was unveiled Friday at Comic-Con. If you don’t, well, we’re surprised you clicked on the link. But Nimród Antal’s 3D pic is much more than a mere concert film. Sure, it features Metallica‘s Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo. But there’s also Dane DeHaan — Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 — as a crew member whose life is turned upside down when he’s sent on a seemingly simple errand during a show. The R-rated pic — the first distribution effort from the rebooted Picturehouse — arrives September 27 with a one-week IMAX run in North America then expands October 4. To the converted, nothing else matters:

Comments (6)

Metallica Gets Rocking On 3D Feature Film

By | Friday October 21, 2011 @ 4:40pm PDT
Mike Fleming

The members of the heavy metal band Metallica are planning to self-finance a 3D feature film, I’m told. The band has hired producer Charlotte Huggins to get the ball rolling. She has produced the 3D films Journey to the Center of the Earth, and just completed the sequel Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, which stars Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine and Josh Hutcherson. The band’s now looking for a director with the stones to direct a Metallica-style feature. This would be the first major film made by the band members, but Metallica has already made a strong impression on the medium. Their decision to lend their music to Paradise Lost, the 1996 documentary on the West Memphis 3 that was directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, helped give that film weight and helped create international outrage over how three teens could be convicted of mass murder without a shred of physical evidence but an abundance of innuendo. Prosecutors cited the defendants’ passion for Metallica music as a strike against them, and it took 17 years for the trio to finally be freed. The band then starred for Berlinger and Sinofsky in Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, a chronicle of the band’s attempt to mend discord through intensive therapy. One can only imagine what they’re planning for their first big feature. I will tell you more as I learn it.

Comments (7)

West Memphis 3 Freed After Plea Deal, And Toronto-Bound Docu Directors Need Ending Change

Mike Fleming

UPDATE: The West Memphis 3, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were just freed in an Arkansas hearing after being in prison 18 years for the murder of three children in 1993. The three were freed after pleading guilty and drawing a sentence equal to the time they already served. The original conviction, which was derived despite any physical evidence tying the trio 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. The case has also be the subject of two Paradise Lost HBO documentaries by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. A third installment will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month, followed by the New York Film Festival and a January airing on HBO.

Peter Jackson & Fran Walsh To Reveal Financial And Legal Support For ‘West Memphis 3′ Freedom Effort

EARLIER, AUGUST 18, 8:20 PM EXCLUSIVE: It’s just days before the directors lock their third documentary on the “West Memphis 3″  for premieres at the Toronto and New York Film Festivals. But Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory helmers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky raced to Arkansas to prepare to add a new ending. They’ll bring their camera Friday morning to … Read More »

Comments 33