On May 6, 1993, the mutilated bodies of three 8-year-old boys were found in a shallow creek in West Memphis, Arkansas. A short time later police arrested three local teenagers, linking the boys' killings to a satanic ritual. One of the boys confessed. The intriguing court case was about to unfold as filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky ventured forth to make the Emmy-winning documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills
. They captured footage of not only courtroom proceedings but also interviews with the major players in trial--parents, suspects, lawyers. The documentary filmmakers, whose previous film, Brother's Keeper
, is as intriguing a crime story you'll ever see, tells this story without re-creations or flashbacks. The film makes a clear argument that the court trial may not be about witchcraft but a witch hunt. As with any great drama, the faces and situations are etched upon the viewer; however, we are dealing with real lives and real crimes (told gruesomely and necessarily by police photographs and videotape), and the impact is far greater. And so is the maddening ambivalence of the trial. Like the O.J. Simpson fiasco, a verdict is reached but the truth is questioned. Did police make fatal errors the night of the crime? Do last-minute clues lead to justice? Who's lying on the stand? As with Roger and Me
and Hoop Dreams
, we have a provocative single incident that holds a mirror to many of society's problems. The results are just more horrifying. --Doug Thomas
Four years later, Directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky return to the scene of the crime with Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, the urgent follow-up to their harrowing 1996 documentary, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. That profoundly disturbing film chronicled the tragic and twisted case of three young men--Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley--who were convicted of the brutal 1993 murders of three second graders. Revelations, which, for those who missed the first film, efficiently recaps the case, and charts the trio's maddening appeals process (police browbeat a confession out of Misskelley, who has an IQ of 71, after 12 hours of questioning), as well as the efforts of a group of Internet advocates to "Free the West Memphis Three." Byers is back as well, and he is infinitely more terrifying than anything in Book of Shadows, Berlinger's Blair Witch sequel. We learn that Byers had all his teeth extracted in the years after the murders (human bite marks are among the new evidence introduced). We also learn that his wife has since died of undetermined causes. When Byers passes a suspect lie detector test, he exults, "I knew I was innocent." A further mystery is why both Paradise Lost films have not garnered the media attention or sparked the outrage that attended Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line, which led to the release of an innocent man who was imprisoned for more than 10 years. Both films give new meaning to the concept of reasonable doubt. --Donald Liebenson
From Emmy award-winning filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky comes for the first time in one collector s edition two of the most shocking documentaries of all time about a gruesome triple murder in West Memphis.