Sony Pictures Classics nabs documentary 'West of Memphis'
Sony Pictures Classics has acquired "West of Memphis," the Peter Jackson-produced documentary about three men in Arkansas who were imprisoned for 18 years for murdering three boys and released last August after questions were raised about their prosecution and the evidence against them.
The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, follows the plight of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley. They were never fully exonerated in the 1993 murders of the three boys in 1993. To attain freedom, they were forced to enter Alford pleas -- a unique situation in which defendants do not admit guilt, but admit that the prosecution could likely prove the charges. It's regarded in court as a guilty plea.
Directed by Amy Berg, "West of Memphis" garnered attention at the Sundance Film Festival in January because it included interviews with three new witnesses further implicating a longtime suspect in the case. Many believe it is possible the footage may prompt the Arkansas justice system to take a further look at that suspect -- Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Stevie Branch, one of the children who was slain.
Of course, "West of Memphis" is not the first documentary to tackle the intriguing case. "Paradise Lost," a series of three films directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, followed the case for years and has been credited with helping to generate major public interest in the effort to free the three men.
The final film in the trilogy, "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," was nominated for documentary feature at the Academy Awards last weekend but lost out to the football team drama "Undefeated."
A release date for "West of Memphis" has yet to be set.
Photo: Damien Echols, top left, director Amy Berg and producers Lorri Davis and Peter Jackson at Sundance 2012. Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images