West of Memphis
Anyone seeking evidence of America’s failings when it comes to justice need look no further than producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh’s documentary "West of Memphis". Directed by Amy Berg, this is a tragic tale of the wrongful conviction of three teenagers and their 18-year struggle for freedom.
The documentary recounts, in harrowing detail, the gruesome murders of three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, and the subsequent arrest and convictions of three teenagers based on what ultimately appears to be a coerced confession and a witness who later recants her testimony. It is a powerful story of failed American justice.
The film’s abundant detail both adds to and detracts from its power. Berg patiently and convincingly builds the case against the three defendants, each detail adding weight to why these boys are guilty. Then, with equally plodding detail, she reveals why it can’t be true, leaving viewers feeling horrified, yes, but also as manipulated as the defendants themselves. Not to mention the jurors?
The Blu-ray version includes additional commentary from the protagonists, footage from the Toronto film Festival Red Carpet, Q&A and press conference, and more.
The boys ultimately go free, thanks to the support and funds of many, particularly celebrities. But their freedom is Pyrrhic at best, almost as damning and constricting as the original convictions, and further proof of the system’s cruel flaws. Meanwhile, the nasty thought lurks that if this is indeed true, the real killer -- at whom the film hints -- is still at large.
"West of Memphis"