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West of Memphis is an examination of a failure of justice in Arkansas. The documentary tells the hitherto unknown story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light. Told and made by those who lived it, the filmmakers' unprecedented access to the inner workings of the defense, allows the film to show the investigation, research and appeals process in a way that has never been seen before; revealing shocking and disturbing new information about a case that still haunts the American South.Written by
Damien Wayne Echols:
The thing I like most about time is that it's not real. It's all in the head. Sure, it's a useful trick if you wanna meet someone at a specific place in the universe to have tea or coffee. But that's all it is, a trick. There's no such thing as the past, it exists only in the memory. There's no such thing as the future, it exists only in our imagination. If our watches were truly accurate the only thing they would ever say is now.
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'West of Memphis', the latest documentary from Amy Berg, focuses on the story of 'the West Memphis Three' – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Miskelly, three teenagers who were wrongly imprisoned in Memphis, Arkansas, in 1993, for being accused of brutally murdering three 8 eight year-old boys from the area. This documentary chronicles how they spent nearly two decades in jail before being released and also details the meticulous investigation that was carried out from the moment they were placed behind bars.
The great miscarriage of justice is the primary focus here, as Baldwin, Miskelly and Echols suffer (the latter's health began to deteriorate) in prison for a crime they were blamed for because they are considered "the type of people who would do something like that", for example, Echols listened to heavy metal and was interested in the area of Satanism so the finger was instantly pointed at him. After the blame was eventually lifted from the three, it was then directed at one of the boy's fathers as he was, like Echols, considered "the type of person who would do something like that." When the documentary reaches its conclusion, it becomes apparent how ludicrous the accusations against both parties were because they were simply scapegoats and consequently very few people in the area questioned the credibility of them being the murderers. Simultaneously, we are offered a balanced look at the topic, frequently seeing opinions from both sides of the argument.
The injustice that prevailed here was already explored in HBO's 'Paradise Lost' trilogy, but many have argued that this film presents a more compelling and thorough account of the 18 year saga. Produced by Peter Jackson (who appears throughout the documentary as one of the many famous guest stars) and Fran Walsh, the film expertly combines specially-recorded interviews, news and archive footage and forensic examinations. This combination results in a documentary that is by turns shocking, tragic, infuriating and always gripping.
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