Amy Berg

Deliver Us From Evil Documentary

The “deliver us from evil” segment of the Lord’s Prayer has been used as the title of at least five movies, two albums, one song, and two books. It’s an evocative phrase, so it makes sense. The latest movie called Deliver Us from Evil comes out this week, and it’s a hybrid of the horror, crime and “based on a true story” genres. It’s adapted from “Beware the Night,” a book by NYPD policeman-turned-demonologist Ralph Sarchie, which details his supposed encounters with the paranormal in the course of his police work. How much credibility the viewer lends to Sarchie likely depends on their flavor of religious belief. Regardless of how believable the film is, its reception has not been kind. So instead, seek out an Oscar-nominated documentary with the same name. This one is about real religion-related acts of evil. The 2006 Deliver Us from Evil looks at the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal by focusing on the case of one man: Oliver O’Grady, who raped at least 25 Northern California children between the late ’70s and early ’90s in the course of his service as a priest. As both he and his now-grown victims and their families attest, his hideous crimes were never particularly well-hidden. Whenever his offenses came to light, O’Grady’s superiors would hush things up and move him to a different parish. It is a micro view of how institutions work to protect themselves, and how ordinary people are the ones who suffer the consequences. READ MORE […]

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Every Secret Thing movie

Plenty of feature films about crime – true or otherwise – center on seemingly normal people who break both the boundaries of normal social behavior and a little thing called the law. Regular people do bad things, too, but that doesn’t mean it’s not shocking and weirdly wrenching when those regular people are of a jarringly young age. Such is the case is Amy Berg’s Every Secret Thing, which follows a pair of pre-teen girls who (possibly) commit a ghastly crime and then (possibly) repeat it nearly a decade later. The feature opens on what seems to be a charmed night in the Manning household, as mother Helen (Diane Lane) acquiesces to her daughter Alice’s (played in these younger sequences by Brynne Norquist) every demand. Let’s read stories! And paint nails! And bake cookies! Helen is delighted by the requests, unaware that Alice is either desperately trying to please her or attempting to cram all the happy memories she can into a single night before everything changes. A knock on the door interrupts the peace, and suddenly there’s another little face (this one belongs to Ronnie, played in her younger years by Eva Grace Kellner) clinging to Helen, apologizing for something that no words can ever repair.

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West_of_Memphis

Editor’s note: Nearly a year after premiering at Sundance, Amy Berg’s West of Memphis hit limited release this week. The following is a re-run of our Sundance review, originally published on January 29, 2012. At Sundance, the film notably included interviews that had been completed mere days before its festival bow. As such, the final product now appearing in theaters is slightly modified from the Sundance version, with more interviews and tighter editing. Not to worry, however, as our faithful Associate Editor Kate Erbland watched the film again, in its final form, and this review remains as applicable as it did in January. When Amy Berg‘s West of Memphis held its first Sundance screening on only the second day of the festival, audience members walked out stunned – not just because of the film’s emotional material, its often graphic crime scenes and autopsy photos and videos, or even because of how it squarely points to a singular perpetrator (one who is, of course, not part of the West Memphis 3), but because the film was undeniably fresh. So fresh, in fact, that two interviews that pop up in the film’s final third both came complete with a time stamp that indicated that they had been conducted the week before the film bowed at the fest – eight days before its opening. While the West Memphis 3 (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley) were freed in August of last year, their nearly twenty-year ordeal remains almost frighteningly of the moment.

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There’s no easy or fun or quick or flashy way to lead off a story about Amy Berg‘s phenomenal documentary, West of Memphis. The film is crushing and wrenching and frequently hard to watch, but that’s fully in service to its subject matter; chronicling the unbelievable story of the West Memphis 3, Berg keenly cuts to the heart of the matter of one of America’s most stunning and complete miscarriages of justice. It’s just a heartbreaker, all-around, and the film’s latest trailer doesn’t shy away from that. The film was one of my favorites out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival and, back then, I wrote about it: “West of Memphis serves as an illuminating look inside the entire West Memphis 3 ordeal, from crime to trial to freedom, and all of the infuriating twists and turns in between. It’s an emotional journey, one that will alternately rile and move its audience. Berg’s access to people and evidence positively crams the film with new interviews and material that will stun even those previously educated about the case.” Get a taste of that with the new trailer for West of Memphis, after the break.

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Jeff Buckley

Despite a similar project hitting screens before it could even go in front of cameras, Jake Scott‘s Jeff Buckley biopic, Mystery White Boy, sounded like it had everything going for it. Whereas that other Buckley pic, Greetings from Tim Buckley, managed to get made and hit the festival circuit quite quickly (the film just bowed at TIFF, where lead actor Penn Badgely appears to be taking most of the praise for the project), that film focuses mainly on the relationship between Jeff and his dad (Tim) and doesn’t feature much Jeff music, Mystery White Boy is considered to be the “official” Buckley biopic and will come complete with actual Jeff Buckley songs. Beyond that, Scott (Welcome to the Rileys) had lined up a solid cast made of a nice mix of talents – Reeve Carney was set to play Buckley, Patricia Arquette was in to play his mom, and rumors of Olivia Thirlby, Gemma Arterton, Harry Treadaway, and John Patrick Amedori joining up had been buzzed about. And yet. The film was set to start filming this summer, which clearly never happened, and now a curious report from Showbiz411 (via The Playlist) tells us just why. In a strangely personal post, Showbiz411′s Roger Friedman reveals that West of Memphis director Amy Berg has replaced Scott as director having, in Friedman’s own words, “bogarted” the movie away from the apparent former director. Friedman also reveals that a source has told him that Berg is “obsessed” with Buckley, though that seems like […]

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Though it’s taking longer than most would have expected, Sundance doc West of Memphis has been picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures Classics. The deal has been buzzed about since the film premiered at the festival, but SPC has finally gotten around to sewing up the deal for Amy Berg‘s film about the West Memphis Three. Berg’s film, produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, is a new entry into the cinematic world about the Three – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr. Accused and sentenced of the murder of three young boys back in 1993, documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofksy have previously chronicled the case in three Paradise Lost films, but Berg’s film features new information and interviews (some completed mere days before the film bowed in Park City), including particularly damning evidence against Terry Hobbs (a stepfather of one of the boys) and some very close time with Echols and his wife Lorri Davis. Back in January, I reviewed the film at Sundance, calling it both “exceedingly well-executed” and “an essential entry into the horrifying true life tale.” I’m pleased as punch that the film will now be getting a release from an established studio that can push it out to plenty of audiences. A release date has not been announced yet, but we can likely assume that SPC will get out this timely documentary within the calendar year, especially with a number of other feature film adaptations of the story getting into production soon.

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The story of the West Memphis Three (Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley) has already been, quite famously, immortalized in filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost trilogy (which wrapped up this year after the Three were finally freed from prison), but Berligner and Sinofsky were not the only filmmakers captivated by the unbelievable story of the men, the murders, and the miscarriage of justice surrounding them. Peter Jackson and his wife and producing partner Fran Walsh have long been supporters of Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley, so it’s no surprise that the pair have helped produce a new documentary about the men and their case. West of Memphis is an investigative documentary by the Academy Award-nominated Amy Berg that “tells the untold story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light.” The film picks up with the official police investigation in 1993, covering the story “from the inside.” Filled with new information and new evidence, West of Memphis is a timely and welcome addition to this year’s Sundance Film Festival. West of Memphis will have its World Premiere at Sundance on Friday, January 20, with four additional screenings throughout the festival. Check out the film’s official trailer after the break, along with screening information for Sundance. See you there!

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