Friday, June 22, 2012
Tuesday night at Silverdocs was the Guggenheim Symposium, in which they honored filmmakers Joe Berlinger (right) and Bruce Sinofsky (left). I had been to a really interesting panel last year at Silverdocs where Joe Berlinger talked about his long-running legal struggles with Chevron over his film Crude. What Berlinger went through with Chevron is completely horrible, though that's a post for another day. But the most amazing thing about these filmmakers' prestigious career is the story of a decades-long fight to get three wrongly-convicted kids out of prison through their film trilogy Paradise Lost.
This wasn't supposed to be a trilogy. They set out to make the first film in 1994 about the West Memphis Three thinking they were making a film about 3 guilty kids but during the process of filming they soon came to realize that these kids weren't guilty at all and that they weren't really getting their due process in court. The boys were convicted: one of them sentenced to death and the other two to life in prison. In 2011, after 18 years in prison, the three men are being released due to new DNA evidence that was introduced in 2007. The reason this is an extraordinary story, though, is because none of this probably would've happened if it weren't for Berlinger and Sinofsky. They knew the boys were innocent and they never let it go. They persevered and got attention for the boys' cause. If it weren't for them, the case probably would've disappeared into history and these boys would've rotted in prison for the rest of their lives (or in one case, been executed).
You can see the Paradise Lost trilogy, as well as the rest of Berlinger and Sinofsky's body of work, at Silverdocs next week starting on Tuesday, June 26th (see the schedule here).