Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills is a dark exploration of a small southern town forever altered by a horrifying act of violence. In 1993, three eight-year-old boys were brutally murdered, their mutilated bodies left in a shallow creek along Interstate 55 in West Memphis, Arkansas. When the local police arrested three teenaged suspects and accused them of sacrificing the young boys in a Satanic ritual, the town was convinced the killers were behind bars. But the three suspects, Jason Baldwin, Jesse Misskelley and Damien Echols — whose passion for heavy metal, Aleister Crowley, and all-black clothing had made him a favorite police target — maintained that they were innocent.
Focusing on the individuals involved, their families, and the trial itself, filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofksy (whose film Brother’s Keeper won the Audience Award at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival) document this community in the year following the murders. Through subtly nuanced depictions of the court proceedings and the ever-present news reporters, the film questions the power of the media to shape public consciousness. The character study of Echols, the alleged Satanic ringleader, is a deeply disturbing look at the way our society treats “difference” and how it attempts to articulate the elusive nature of good and evil. Despite the lack of physical evidence connecting the suspects to the crime scene, public opinion condemned them before their trial.
Pursuing issues left out of the courtroom and emotions too powerful for the sound-bite-driven news media, the film intimately examines the families of both victims and suspects as they try to come to terms with their pain and frustration. From the mother of one of the young victims cursing the murderers and “the mothers who bore them” to the girlfriend of Damien Echols praying that he will be able to return to her and their child, all are portrayed with respect, compassion, and dignity. But the filmmakers never editorialize. Instead, Paradise Lost creates a deeply resonant drama about American justice. Its unanswered questions linger on. –Sundance Film Festival
Oscar-nominated Joseph “Joe” Berlinger (born October 30, 1961) is an American documentary film-maker who, in collaboration with Bruce Sinofsky, has created such films as Paradise Lost about the West Memphis 3, Brother’s Keeper, Some Kind of Monster, and Crude.
In collaboration with journalist Greg Milner, Berlinger has also written a book called Metallica: This Monster Lives, which is about his journey from making the poorly received Blair Witch 2 to creating Some Kind of Monster with Metallica, one of the world’s most famous metal bands.
Berlinger has also worked on TV series such as Homicide: Life on the Street, D.C. and FanClub.
Berlinger is best known for the breakthrough film series “Paradise Lost,” which documents the murder trial and the subsequent legal battles of three teenagers wrongfully convicted of murder. The community of West Memphis, Arkansas believed that the three teenagers (known as the West Memphis Three) murdered three eight… read more
Bruce Sinofsky (born March 31, 1956) is an Emmy award-winning documentary film director, who began his career at Maysles Films.
Sinofsky was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts of New York University in 1978.
As Senior Editor for Maysles, he worked on commercials and feature films until 1991, when he and Joe Berlinger formed their own production company, Creative Thinking International. They jointly produce, edit, and direct documentary films which have appeared on over 50 critics choice lists, including Paradise Lost, Brother’s Keeper, Hollywood High, and Some Kind of Monster.
Their work is done in various styles, including a paen to the Cinéma vérité. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster covers the band as they participate in group therapy before recording their first album in five years.
Paradise Lost chronicles the inhabitants of a small southern town a year after a series of brutal murders in style similar to that… read more
As a late comer to this story this first in the trilogy just doesn't hold up with time. As a documentation of the questionable handling of this case it does its job but as a film it fails to completely come across as anything other than flat. There is a questionable tone to the handling of the victims' families too, which undermines the power of the piece. Worth a watch but a masterpiece it is not.
The “West Memphis 3” will be making their first public appearance this evening since they were freed in August.