West of Memphis, a documentary chronicling the strange, dramatic and controversial case of The West Memphis Three, is screening at The Belcourt on Jan. 26, just after premiering at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. And when it does, Damien Echols — one of the WM3 — his wife Lorri Davis, and the film’s director, Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil), will appear on hand for an audience Q&A. This, according to a press release the Scene received mere moments ago.
Echols and Davis are the film’s producers. And Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and partner Fran Walsh are the film’s executive producers.
For those of us who grew up in the ’90s, Damien Echols is a household name. As one of The West Memphis Three, Echols spent nearly 18 years languishing in an Arkansas prison. A steadfast chorus of detractors — in addition to the state of Arkansas — say that’s because Echols (along with Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin) savagely murdered three 8-year-old cub scouts in small-town West Memphis, Ark., in 1993.
But worldwide masses of supporters, and a shocking lack of physical evidence, say Echols was unjustly convicted in a kangaroo court and railroaded to Death Row because he wore black, read the writings of Aleister Crowley and listened to Metallica — activities prosecutors argued was textbook evidence of those who commit ritualistic Satanic sacrifices.
Over the past decade-and-a-half, WM3 supporters have fought for the Three's freedom. And last summer, they celebrated a victory. The re-examination of crime-scene evidence, new developments in DNA analysis unavailable at the time of the crime and serious allegations of juror misconduct had obliterated the case that originally sent Echols and his co-defendants to prison. And in August of last year, The West Memphis Three were, to the surprise of detractors and supporters alike, freed from prison under an unusual plea agreement that allowed them to continue proclaiming innocence, while simultaneously pleading guilty to the murders.
That compromise has shifted the WM3 movement’s goal from freeing Echols, Misskelley Jr. and Baldwin to seeing them pardoned and/or fully exonerated by the state of Arkansas. So theirs, a story made famous by the HBO documentary series Paradise Lost, is a story that’s still far from over. And one that, in addition to a third Paradise Lost film that debuted on HBO last week, a forthcoming big-screen dramatic feature (set to star Reese Witherspoon) and West of Memphis fight to tell. See the trailer above.
At press time the Belcourt event is sold out. Keep checking back here in the event that more tickets become available.