West of Memphis

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West of Memphis
West of Memphis poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Amy J. Berg
Produced by Peter Jackson
Damien Echols
Written by Amy J. Berg
Billy McMillin
Starring The West Memphis Three:
Jessie Misskelley
Damien Echols
Jason Baldwin
Music by Nick Cave
Warren Ellis
Cinematography Maryse Alberti
Ronan Killeen
Edited by Billy McMillin
WingNut Films
Disarming Films
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • January 21, 2012 (2012-01-21) (Sundance)
  • December 28, 2012 (2012-12-28)
Running time
147 minutes[1]
Country New Zealand
United States
Language English
Box office $310,154

West of Memphis (2012) is a documentary film directed and co-written by Amy J. Berg, produced by Peter Jackson and Damien Echols, and released in the US by Sony Pictures Classics.


As with the Paradise Lost film and its two sequels, West of Memphis follows the events of the West Memphis Three, a case in which three teenagers (Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin) were arrested for the murders of three 8-year old children.

The West Memphis Three were subsequently convicted of murder and remained in prison for more than 18 years. West of Memphis focuses on Terry Hobbs, stepfather of Stevie Branch, one of the victims of the 1993 crime, as a potential suspect due to physical evidence linking him to the crime, a history of violent behavior and his lack of an alibi for the time the murders were committed, as well as damaging statements made by his ex-wife, former neighbors, and most recently his own nephew, who claims Hobbs confessed to him. The film reveals that inexplicably Terry Hobbs was not interviewed by police at the time of the murders.

Since the 1996 release of the HBO Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky documentary, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, supporters protested the innocence of the West Memphis Three. Much like the Paradise Lost films, West of Memphis chronicles the history of the imprisoned men all the way up to the eventual release through interviews conducted with lawyers, judges, journalists, family members, witnesses, and the West Memphis Three themselves. With the January 2012 HBO premiere of the third Paradise Lost film, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, there were two documentary films on the subject within a year.

West of Memphis premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2012 and at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2012. On June 14, 2012, Sony Pictures Classics revealed the release date for West of Memphis in New York City and Los Angeles to be December 28, 2012, with theatrical release in the rest of the US to follow in January 2013.

Critical reception[edit]

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, movie critic Joe Morgenstern described West of Memphis as "a devastating account of police incompetence, civic hysteria and prosecutorial behavior that was totally at odds with a vastly persuasive body of evidence uncovered in a privately funded investigation". Director Amy Berg, wrote Morgenstern, "has a dramatist's eye for what was irretrievably lost — the innocent lives of the children, plus 18 years of three other innocent lives. And she saw, equally well, what was there to be gained: dramatic new insights into an inexorable progression from random arrests through groundless supposition, fevered conjecture and flagrant perjury to official disgrace in a supposedly airtight case."[2]

Film critic Philip French of The Observer called West of Memphis "riveting", and a "shocking indictment of the American criminal justice system and a tribute to the dedication of selfless civil rights lawyers and their supporters from all over the world".[3]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the movie an "A-" and wrote that "the film casts a hypnotic spell all its own. It artfully sketches out the events for anyone who's coming in cold, but basically, its strategy is to take what we already know and go deeper. ... West of Memphis goes after another possible suspect, Terry Hobbs, who was stepfather to one of the victims and who has denied any involvement. In doing so, the film reframes the story's terrible darkness, even if it can't give us the closure we hunger for."[4]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a perfect four star rating, saying: "Do we need a fourth film? Yes, I think we do. If you only see one of them, this is the one to choose, because it has the benefit of hindsight."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "WEST OF MEMPHIS (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2012-10-05. Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  2. ^ Morgenstern, Joe (December 27, 2012). "Tarantino, Blessedly Unchained". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 27, 2012. 
  3. ^ French, Philip (December 22, 2012). "West of Memphis - review". The Observer. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  4. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (January 18, 2013). "West of Memphis". Entertainment Weekly (New York: Time Inc.): 61. 

External links[edit]