Although there were many points of interest at this year’s Sundance, the most fascinating and moving element was hands-down the new Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) produced documentary about the West Memphis Three which is directed by Amy Berg (who won an Oscar for her preist-molestation film Deliver Us from Evil in 2006) and is titled: West of Memphis. Moreover, the biggest star of Sundance, and biggest shock was one of the West Memphis Three, Damien Echols, who came along with Peter Jackson and several of the parents of the murdered boys that led to his possibly false imprisonment and death sentence in the 90s. Damien was joined in Sundance with his wife whom he met and married while on death row. The doc is aptly timed with the release of the West Memphis Three from prison this past August although it’s been in the works for ages. Peter was also with his wife who co-produced the film- the couple has been providing financial and public support for the defense since seeing Joe Berlinger’s 1996 documentary Paradise Lost for HBO about the case. The situation is only going to get bigger and bigger, as Berlinger’s follow up in a series of three HBO documentaries, “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory,” was just nominated for an Oscar yesterday.
UPDATE (February 1, 2012): Deadline Hollywood is reporting Colin Firth has signed on to join Reese Witherspoon to co-star in Devil’s Knot, based on investigative reporter Mara Leveritt’s 2003 book Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, to be directed by Atom Egoyan (The Exorcism Of Emily Rose). Colin will play private investigator Ron Lax who offered his services for free to the defendents in 1993 and who helped find the DNA in the knots that bound one of the victims that cast suspicion on the stepfather of one of the 8-year old murdered boys. Filming begins next summer in Louisiana, and other big names are expected to join the cast in smaller roles.
Joe Berlinger‘s first two docs about the WMT were Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996) and Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (2000). Both investigate publicly known details of the court case that has caused most of the world to conclude the trial was unfair, the Arkansas legal system doesn’t work and three innocent men went to jail while a guilty man is still unaccounted for.
Joe Berlinger is also the executive producer for for last 5 seasons of ICONOCLASTS (2006-2010) one of my favorite shows which places massively famous people in a two way interview. Over the weekend, our friends who were running the GREY GOOSE sponsored Blue Door on Main Street, home to several premiere post-dinners and after parties including Arbitrage (Richard Gere), For a Good Time Call (Seth Rogan), Celeste & Jesse (Rashida Jones), and more, hosted a party and discussion panel for ICONOCLASTS where they also announced the green light of season six.
Joe joined the panel with Paul Simon who is the subject of his new Sundance doc Under African Skies that revisits Paul Simon’s 25 year old album Graceland which is said to have broken the UN’s cultural boycott of South Africa at the time, that was designed to end apartheid. Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Paul McCartney, and David Byrne are featured.
Sundance Channel GM Sarah Barnett joined the panel discussion; season 6 of ICONOCLASTS will be co-sponsored by GREY GOOSE Entertainment and the Sundance Channel.