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
[when asked why he was drawn to the West Memphis 3 case]
Damien liked to hang out alone and wrote in his journals that he was depressed. Hello! He liked to listen to weird music. Check. He was a wise-ass in the face of law enforcement. I mean, are you kidding? It could have been me. Could have been me.
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There's no such thing as a nice murder, but the deaths of three children in West Memphs, Arkansas in 1993 seemed particularly horrific: the killer had apparently cut off his victim's penises and drunk their blood before throwing the corpses into a creek. The police promptly rounded up some local kids with a passing interest in Satanism, and a conviction as duly secured. Only later, amid mounting concerns over a potential miscarriage of justice, did it emerge that an incompetent pathologist had failed to recognise that the wounds were almost certainly inflicted post-mortem, and not by the killer, but by turtles. Not only had the wrong people been convicted of the crime, but the crime was perhaps just an "ordinary" murder after all. But getting the State to agree was a further long struggle. Amy Berg's documentary charts the story. It's horrific (the crime was still an awful one, even if not quite as originally portrayed, and the false imprisonment of the accused a second tragedy), fascinating, and beautifully filmed. On the downside, it is a bit long, and while it does a good job at suggesting who might have actually committed the crime, one can feel a bit uneasy about making such charges in a film like this (although one can also note that the authorities seemingly have no interest in re-investigating the case). More than anything else, the film is an interesting (and scary) look into the life of the American poor, a long way from the glitz of Manhattan. For many of the people we see in this movie, life would have been a hard, tough grind, even without the terrible events displayed. When one of the three accused finally gets out of prison, he tells us he isn't going back to Arkansas; and one doesn't feel like blaming him.
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