With their ‘Paradise Lost Trilogy‘ Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have shown the power of true documentary filmmaking. ‘Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory‘ ends with on a happy yet frustrating note for the real ‘West Memphis Three‘.
For anyone who’s looked into the true story of the ‘West Memphis Three‘, you know how you wound up becoming so engrossed you lose hours, days and even weeks researching and combing through the wm3.org site trying to understand how such a miscarriage of justice could have occurred. Now imagine spending 18 years in prison and on death row wondering the same thing. You’ll get the idea if you only watch ‘Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory‘ where you learn about three young men who suffered at the hands of a seemingly corrupt small southern town where no one seemed to think anyone would care.
If you don’t believe in fate, then you’ve not heard the story of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, two documentary filmmakers who were sent down to West Memphis, Arkansas to cover a trial that they thought was pretty cut and dry. If they hadn’t been sent, these three men would still be in prison and one easily dead. That might sound melodramatic, but it’s the truth. This experience literally changed the lives of these three young men and the two filmmakers.
You don’t have to have seen either of the previous two films as ‘Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory‘ fills you in on the entire case starting with the brutal murder of three eight year old boys shocking the residents of the small southern town. Three teens who stood out a little differently from the rest were easy targets for a town needing someone to blame for one of the most brutal crimes in Arkansas history. A lot of credit is due editor Alyse Ardell Spiegel for wading through the multitude of video footage and chapters of this bizarre story and making it easy for the viewer to follow. Watching these men literally grown older before your eyes will be the most shocking part for many viewers as they realize how many years and attorneys these men have gone through seeking justice.
Easily, the biggest villain in the film is Judge David Burnett, who was bound and determined to keep these men in jail no matter what evidence was brought before him. The filmmakers are part of the final story since they would have to be with the effect their original film ‘Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills‘, where other filmmakers would make the film about themselves, Berlinger and Sinofsky don’t.
One of the strongest areas of the film is seeing the transition of some of the murdered children’s parents going from believing the ‘West Memphis Three’ are the murderers to innocent. John Mark Byers, who ranted and shot pumpkins pretending that they were Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr in the second ‘Paradise Lost’ film is now one of their advocates.
Berlinger and Sinofsky’s ‘Paradise Lost’ films have easily found a place in film history for their influence on a judicial system that didn’t work. ‘The Thin Blue Line‘ made a difference on one life, but these films have affected three along with an entire town. We may never know who actually killed the three eight year old boys, but these films helped keep another victim from being killed by a system prone to prejudice and yes ignorance.
Best Movies Ever News Review: A
‘Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory’ is documentary filmmaking at its best and should finally win an Academy Award just for showing how this medium can truly effect lives. The outcome of the film is frustrating, but that can’t be blamed on Joe Berlinger or Bruce Sinofsky, that blame is for the State of Arkansas criminal justice system.
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory airs on HBO January 12, 2012. A must watch!