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January 3, 2013

'West of Memphis' brings fresh eyes to story


Jackson appears on camera, talking about the steps they took to immerse themselves in the case. Musician Eddie Vedder got deeply involved. And Johnny Depp. The “WM3” became a cause celebre among the celebre. And then Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks got sucked into it and played an even bigger part in casting doubt on the guilt of the trio.

It’s a fine summation of this complicated story, one that focuses heavily on Echols and his sweeping declarations about the state of justice in Arkansas and America. Enduring almost 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit entitles him to that. And to the fact that Echols and a woman he met by mail and married while in prison, Lorri Davis, are producers on the film.

But for all the ebb and flow of this saga, the TV news footage and snippets of newspaper stories about the case sampled here, the omission of more than a passing mention of the “Paradise Lost” films robs “West of Memphis” of some of its credibility. If anybody anywhere knows anything about this case, it’s because of those two filmmakers — Berlinger and Sinofsky. They wouldn’t agree to be interviewed here?

Maybe they were concerned that Jackson’s money would allow him and Berg to take credit at the end when they hadn’t been there since the beginning.

Which is the worst thing you can say about this otherwise righteous, if somewhat star-struck film. The “Paradise Lost” guys moved the ball down the field, all the way to the end zone. Now, a new owner and his backup quarterback are spiking the ball.

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