Sundance 2012: ‘West of Memphis’ heartwrenching and triumphant, but no victory lap
You might think you know the story of the West Memphis Three as it was covered extensively by the press and the Paradise Lost documentary trilogy throughout the last 18 years. Then comes along West of Memphis which brings to the table a closer, more intensely personal reading of the infamous tragedy that devastated so many lives but brought to light how political ambition, pride and ego can so easily corrupt the United States justice system.
Director Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil) encapsulates and condenses the length of the case by first presenting the facts which were previously the most widely known about the case. In 1993, three little boys were murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas. The bodies appeared to be hogtied, tortured and their privates mutilated in what was believed to be a satanic ritual. Three local teenagers who were branded by their community as outsiders were arrested and convicted. It was a closed case that the documentary Paradise Lost cast doubt on. At two and a half hours long the film never feels overly long or rushed It does recap much of the material from Paradise but does so swiftly and deftly.