Here is a teaser for a panel that is part of HBO’s January 12 premiere of Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, the final installment of the documentary that Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky made on the West Memphis 3. The trio was finally released this year after spending nearly 20 years in prison for murder after being convicted with no physical evidence and much inflammatory innuendo. While many people helped the defendants over the years — Peter and Fran Jackson, who’ve disclosed they paid legal bills, produced their own documentary — it was Berlinger and Sinofsky’s HBO documentaries that served as a continuing reminder that the trio was rotting in a cell for crimes the filmmakers didn’t believe they had anything to do with. Here’s a bit of footage from the New York Film Festival screening in what was the only time the three men had been together since they left the courthouse after their release. The entire Q&A can be seen on HBO.com.
HBO Documentary Films has set a January 12 premiere date for Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, the conclusion of the trilogy that helped free three men — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, known as The West Memphis Three — convicted of the gruesome 1993 murder of three 8-year-old boys. The third film, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, chronicles the new developments, culminating in the trio’s August release from prison after more than 18 years. “Almost 20 years and three films ago, HBO’s Sheila Nevins sent us on this journey to document the terrible murders of three innocent boys and the subsequent circus that followed the arrests and convictions of Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley,” says filmmaker Joe Berlinger. “To see our work culminate in the righting of this tragic miscarriage of justice is more than a filmmaker could ask for.”
Peter Jackson disclosed Friday that he was working with one of the West Memphis 3 toward obtaining a full pardon. “We’re doing investigative work, we’re doing forensic work,” Jackson said, for “the purpose of getting a complete pardon” for Damien Echols. Jackson disclosed that Echols was in New Zealand at a press conference to announce that the first of the director’s two movies based on The Hobbit would have its world premiere in Wellington. Jackson received an exemption from New Zealand law to allow Echols to visit. Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh have been working for several years to help free Echols, who along with Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley were released in August after serving 18 years in prison for the murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Convicted of the murders, they continued to maintain their innocence but pleaded guilty to lesser charges to gain release from prison. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, third of three documentaries about their plight, screened earlier this month at the New York Film Festival after it was recut to include their release. It is scheduled to debut on HBO in January.
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.
The New York Film Festival announced additional programs for its 49th edition today including that it will host the premiere screening of the new ending to Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s West Memphis 3 documentary Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, which we reported would land there first. The new footage includes the recent shock release of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, who were just sprung from an Arkansas prison after 18 years for the murder of three children due to lack of evidence and a long and high-profile fight to overturn their convictions. The filmmakers earlier said the HBO documentary will air with its original ending for next month’s Toronto International Film Festival. Here’s the NYFF release:
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.”