West Of Memphis (Amy Berg, 2011): US

Reviewed by Natanya Maskart. Viewed at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.


West of Memphis is a horrific and gripping documentary of the gruesome 1993 murder of three little eight-year-old boys taking place in Memphis Arkansas. This film fallows the stories of the three boys who were known to be called, The West Memphis three. The boys were wrongly accused of murder and imprisoned for eighteen years until being released after many efforts. This documentary inspired by true events fallows these three boys through their conviction and punishment for apparent murder with barely any true evidence pointing to these innocent men.

This film produced by Peter Jackson had many different celebrities supporting and backing up these three young boys such as Johnny Depp, pearl jam, Metallica, Dixie chicks and many others.  They as well as many others around the country were fallowing this publicized murder trial, which was filled with so much corruption awaiting to see if these men were ever going to be set free. This film is a prime example of the failure of the justice system and the fight to expose the truth and the innocence. The three boys accused of this murder were Jessie Misskelley, Mark Byers and Damien Echols. Damien Echols was the main boy who was thought to be the leader of this unthinkable act and received the worst punishment out of all of them. Sentenced to death. As the investigation goes on different reasons come to light as to the reasons to the death of these three children. Reasons such as a satanic ritual came about which was apparently being lead my Echols. As the documentary continues on it is jaw dropping to see and discover the different information that comes to the table about the innocence of these men and where the aim starts to be pointed toward.

The raw footage and images shown throughout this film are sometimes very hard to watch. It shows the bodies of the three children as well as videos of them throughout the trial as well as them being released. Throughout the film there are constant interviews with the different parents of the three boys as well as other family, friends, lawyers and important people putting in their thoughts on this case. This raw footage helps make the audience feel how real this event was and takes the audience to Memphis at this time and place.  Although I do not want to give away the big turning point in the movie, I will say that the evidence that starts taking the blame off these three young’s boys is shocking. This is a must see movie that I would highly recommend.

The story of the struggle these men went through and how they were imprisoned for so long is heartbreaking but knowing that they are free now leaves many at peace. This film was very long lasting almost two and a half hours and many of the scenes were very hard to watch. It was not a type of movie that you would ever want to walk out of but definitely a film where you would turn your head and look that other way at times. I think this is for a very mature audience and not a film that is for everyone to see. I think anyone who is a law and order fan or CSI fan then they would really enjoy this movie. It is a mysterious case that unfolds as the movie goes along. I enjoyed watching it although i left the theatre a little sad. One of the other great things about going to see this film at the festival was that one of the young boys fathers whose child was murdered was there to do a Q and A afterwards as well as Mark Byers and Damien Echols. To see these men and hear them speak was a big treat to the audience and was told that they like to make appearances at their films showing and give answers to the audience and help raise awareness about the cruel and wrong imprisonment that happens to innocent people in our country.

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