In 1994, three Arkansas teenagers were convicted of murdering three eight-year-old boys on the strength of an implausible confession and ‘expert’ testimony which characterised them as Satanists. A film about the case made by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (seen by NZIFF audiences in 1996) prompted an international movement to free the ‘West Memphis Three’. For 18 years the West Memphis judge who oversaw the initial trial denied successive retrial bids. Then suddenly last August, facing formidable legal expertise funded by supporters, the court caved in, sort of: the three were released without retrial but had to admit culpability whilst proclaiming their innocence.
Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh have been key participants in that movement. Now, with the falsely accused Damien Echols and his partner Lorri Davis, they have produced this film which lucidly recounts the long legal campaign. Director Amy Berg (Deliver Us from Evil, NZIFF07) also shapes an overwhelming case for overturning the convictions and for the arrest of the actual killer. We are delighted that Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and their associates have agreed to share their potent labour of love and advocacy with NZIFF audiences ahead of its international roll-out later this year. — BG
“Amy Berg’s clear, captivating, indignant film carves out its own significant place in criminal-justice cinema… Whether the state of Arkansas can ignore West of Memphis seems to be the only remaining question surrounding this first-rate investigative documentary.” — John Anderson, Variety