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Next for West Memphis Three director: South Africa

August 22, 2011 |  4:37 pm

Joe Berlinger made his name with "Paradise Lost," the 1996 documentary about the West Memphis Three that set the ball rolling on the trio's eventual release (and also won him an Emmy and a Peabody).

But after completing a third film about the famed Arkansas murders that will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival next month, the director says he's looking for a break from the case that has consumed him for nearly two decades.

Berlinger recently completed shooting a movie about Paul Simon--specifically, the singer's recent trip to South Africa to reunite with musicians on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his iconic album "Graceland." The filmmakers are editing the movie now, with the hope of having  it ready in time for the Sundance Film Festival.

"It's all about the musicians he hadn't seen in all these years," Berlinger told 24 Frames of the film. "It's a perfect antidote to the tragedy that ["Paradise Lost"] has been."

To record "Graceland," Simon traveled to South Africa and worked with a host of local musicians, including the vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Despite the abundance of black musicians, the trip was controversial because the boycott was still in place. (The United Nations anti-apartheid committee wound up finding that Simon was not in violation of the boycott because he had not supported the government in any way.)

The Simon movie continues the trend of acclaimed filmmakers stepping into the music-documentary realm; Cameron Crowe, for instance, has an upcoming film about Pearl Jam. Berlinger is no stranger to the music world, directing the acclaimed 2004 doc "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster," about the group's dysfunctional creative process.

Those who want to take a look back at the West Memphis Three will have their chance: HBO said on Monday that it will re-air "Paradise Lost" next Monday, and the sequel, "Paradise Lost 2," next Tuesday. The third film will premiere in January.


West Memphis Three outcome 'bittersweet,' filmmaker says

West Memphis Three freed after 18 years behind bars

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Paul Simon. Credit: Lynn Goldsmith/AP