The case of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. — the West Memphis teenagers who were railroaded in 1994 for killing three 8-year-old boys, then taken up as a cause celebre until their release from prison just months ago — has already been covered at length in the Paradise Lost documentaries by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. But Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and his collaborator/wife Fran Walsh have given financial support to the West Memphis Three's legal defense, and they're among the producers of Berg's documentary.
The New York Times recently reported on a controversy brewing between Berg's doc and the closing chapter in the Berlinger-Sinofsky series, which premiered in Toronto two months ago while headlines about the West Memphis Three's release were still dripping ink. (It airs Jan. 12, 2012 on HBO.) As reported, with many of the participants angling for movie deals and competing projects, it's an ugly but fascinating story. And the notoriety will only raise interest in Berg's project — as will curiosity over how it will handle a lurid saga the previous docs have owned up to now.
The movie will show one night only at The Belcourt Jan. 26, and in keeping with previous "Sundance Film Festival USA" events, at least one of the primary filmmakers will attend. (Plus there's always the possibility of special guests.) The ticket link is going live on the Belcourt site any moment, and the $15 tickets will almost certainly sell out fast. In the meantime, if you're curious about what the other cities will be getting, the press release follows below.
UPDATE: Ticket link here.
Park City, UT — Sundance Institute announced today the films from the 2012 Sundance Film Festival that will screen in independent theaters in nine different cities around the country. The screenings are part of Sundance Film Festival USA, a program designed to bring the Festival experience to film-loving audiences nationwide. The 2012 Sundance Film Festival takes place January 19 through 29 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.
On January 26, the second Thursday of the Sundance Film Festival, nine filmmakers will each travel from Utah to one of the following cities: Ann Arbor, MI; Boston, MA; Brooklyn, NY; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Nashville, TN; Orlando, FL; San Francisco, CA; and Tucson, AZ. Their travel is courtesy of Official Airline Sponsor Southwest Airlines. In each city, the filmmaker will introduce and screen their film and participate in a Q&A with the audience. A video featuring highlights from this year’s Sundance Film Festival will precede each screening.
The Sundance Film Festival USA initiative was established in 2010.
“Bringing new voices in independent cinema to communities across the country at the same time they’re breaking for the first time at the Sundance Film Festival is an exciting proposition for artists, audiences, and for us,” said Robert Redford, Founder and President of Sundance Institute. “Even with the accessibility of films everywhere, there is still something incomparable about discovering, with others, a new world in a great story onscreen.”
John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, said, “Sundance Film Festival USA is our way of celebrating arthouse theatres across the country and thanking them for their year-round support of independent film. For these filmmakers, it’s also an opportunity to connect with the growing audiences for independent film outside of Utah and offer them a first look at the year ahead.”
Tickets for each screening will be available through the theatre’s box office.
Ann Arbor, MI — The Michigan Theatre www.michtheater.org
For A Good Time, Call... / U.S.A. (Director: Jamie Travis, Screenwriters: Katie Anne Naylon & Lauren Anne Miller) — Lauren and Katie move in together after a loss of a relationship and a loss of a rent controlled home, respectively. When Lauren learns what Katie does for a living the two enter into a wildly unconventional business venture. Cast: Ari Graynor, Lauren Anne Miller, Justin Long, Mark Webber, James Wolk.
Boston, MA — Coolidge Corner Theatre www.coolidge.org
Celeste and Jesse Forever / U.S.A. (Director: Lee Toland Krieger, Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack) — Celeste and Jesse met in high school, married young, and at 30, decide to get divorced but remain best friends while pursuing other relationships. Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts.
Brooklyn, NY — BAM www.bam.org
Robot and Frank / U.S.A. (Director: Jake Schreier, Screenwriter: Christopher Ford) — A curmudgeonly older dad’s grown kids install a robot as his caretaker. Cast: Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, James Marsden, Liv Tyler.
Chicago, IL — Music Box Theatre www.musicboxtheatre.com
2 Days in New York / France (Director: Julie Delpy, Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau) — Marion has broken up with Jack and now lives in New York with their child. A visit from her family, the different cultural background of her new boyfriend, an ex-boyfriend who her sister is now dating, and her upcoming photo exhibition make for an explosive mix. Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alex Nahon.
Houston, TX — Sundance Cinemas Houston www.sundancecinemas.com
Bachelorette / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Leslye Headland) — Ten years after high school, three women reunite on the eve of their friend’s New York City wedding. A bachelorette party unfolds into a wild night of drugs, alcohol, men, and strippers that threatens to destroy the wedding and sends the girls on a comedic odyssey to fix the damage. As the girls race to save a friendship and a wedding, they ride a thin line between jealousy and loyalty in what might be the most important night of their lives. Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer.
Nashville, TN — Belcourt Theatre www.belcourt.org
West of Memphis / U.S.A. (Director: Amy Berg) — Three teenage boys are incarcerated for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. 19 years later, new evidence calls into question the convictions and raises issues of judicial, prosecutorial and jury misconduct — showing that the first casualty of a corrupt justice system is the truth.
Orlando, FL — Enzian Theater www.enzian.org
Arbitrage / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Nicholas Jarecki) — A hedge-fund magnate is in over his head, desperately trying to complete the sale of his trading empire before the depths of his fraud are revealed. An unexpected, bloody error forces him to turn to the most unlikely corner for help. Cast: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth, Brit Marling, Nate Parker.
San Francisco, CA — Sundance Kabuki Cinemas www.sundancecinemas.com
Liberal Arts / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Josh Radnor) — Bookish and newly single Jesse Fisher returns to his alma mater for his favorite professor’s retirement dinner. A chance meeting with Zibby — a precocious classical music-loving sophomore — awakens in him long-dormant feelings of possibility and connection. Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro, Elizabeth Reaser.
Tucson, AZ — The Loft www.loftcinema.com
GOATS / U.S.A. (Director: Christopher Neil, Screenwriter: Mark Jude Poirier) — Ellis leaves his unconventional desert home to attend the disciplined and structured Gates Academy. There, he re-connects with his estranged father and for the first time questions the family dynamics. Cast: David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, Graham Phillips, Justin Kirk, Ty Burrell.
At each of the nine theatres participating in Sundance Film Festival USA, screening attendees will have the opportunity to participate in one of the Festival’s New Frontier interactive installations. Question Bridge: Black Males, by Hank Willis Thomas & Chris Johnson in collaboration with Bayete Ross Smith & Kamal Sinclair, is a visionary transmedia project that uses new media technology to create a uniquely vulnerable and intimate dialogue among and about black men nationwide, initiating a new kind of social network. Look for the Question Bridge poster, scan the QR code and participate in this groundbreaking project.
In Park City that same Thursday, audiences will be able to experience centerpiece programming at the Eccles Theatre, with the special event Hit RECord at the Movies with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Gordon-Levitt and the global hitRECord community will participate in a special one-time-only interactive exploration of the power of making things together. Gordon-Levitt will showcase works that have been created from the collaborative hitRECord production company and invite the audience to engage, interact and contribute to the event using their digital devices. The event will be recorded, with footage posted on their website for all to enjoy and be inspired by. hitRECord, which launched with an installation in the New Frontier section of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, returns to the Festival to showcase the project’s evolution and potential for creative experimentation. Ticket information for this event is available at www.sundance.org/tickets.