West Memphis Three

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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In which we return to our well-worn beat of covering casting news on Atom Egoyan‘s Devil’s Knot, which will chronicle the real life tragedy and drama of the West Memphis 3. The film has already cast Reese Witherspoon as the mother of one of the murdered boys, Alessandro Nivola as her husband (and a possible suspect), Colin Firth as private investigator Ron Lax, and Mireille Enos as a major witness. Casting on the film has now ramped up so considerably that we’ll just tease you with some names and provide a full rundown of their involvement and possible roles after the break. Amy Ryan. Collette Wolfe. Dane DeHaan. Read on!

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Atom Egoyan‘s Devil’s Knot continues to slowly round out its cast with interesting and perhaps off-beat casting choices. Next up, Deadline Primm reports that Alessandro Nivola will play a crucial role in Egoyan’s film that centers on the real life story of the West Memphis 3. Nivola (Face/Off, Grace Is Gone) has been tapped to play Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of one of the victims in the brutal 1993 murder of three small boys. The role is billed as “pivotal” to the film and, with Reese Witherspoon set to play Hobbs’ wife Pam (and the mother of victim Stevie Branch), the pair’s relationship will “form the backbone of the story.” But Hobbs’ importance in the film is not just of the emotional variety – he’s still viewed as a primary suspect in the case. Hobbs has long been linked to the murders as a possible suspect and, even twenty years later, new evidence continues to come out against the man. Amy Berg’s Sundance documentary, West of Memphis, also paid particular attention to Hobbs as a suspect, with the last third or so of the film focusing squarely on a bevy of new accusations and witnesses who have come out against Hobbs (some of the interviews were filmed just days before the film premiered at the festival).

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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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