by Jim Ridley
Last weekend, in the midst of a thunderstorm and a power outage, Adam Gold still managed a coup: interviews with Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin of the West Memphis Three, Echols' wife Lorri Davis, and Amy Berg — the director of the hotly anticipated documentary West of Memphis, the hardest ticket to get in town tonight. The movie will have one screening only 7 p.m. at The Belcourt, as part of the Sundance Film Festival USA night going on across the country, and it's been sold out for weeks.
Covering Sundance in his regular gig for the A.V. Club — which you should be reading regularly if somehow you're not — longtime Scene contributor Noel Murray saw the film last weekend and compared it favorably to the landmark Paradise Lost documentaries on the subject.
"Berg has the story (and the testifiers to same) already in place," Noel writes, "plus she has Jackson’s money and personal interest in the case to get her access to DNA experts, forensic pathologists and FBI profilers, all of whom establish very convincingly that the three men convicted for this crime were the victims a justice system more interested in expediency than truth."
Gold spoke to the principals just after the film's emotional premiere, and if you've followed the case you won't want to miss his full transcripts of the interviews. An excerpt from his talk with Damien Echols:
[Knowing] that there are people out there who remain suspicious, if there was something that you could say to them, what would it be?
The only thing I could say to them is just to ask them to watch this film, to watch West of Memphis. Because, really, I do believe that if anybody were to take just a small amount of time and start looking at the case and the evidence, they would change their minds. I think this film does a really good job at taking everything and compressing it into a small amount of time, so that you really learn a great deal from it. That's the only thing I could tell them — "watch this," and just be open to the evidence.
Would you say that this film is the case that you would want to present in court if you had the opportunity?
I think so. There's lots of other stuff, like smaller things that you don't always have time for. The documentary is two-and-a-half hours long. And even then there was so much more footage and so much more information that we wanted to get in, but you can't very well have a 12- or 15-hour movie. So there was other stuff, but I think, you know, this is the seed of it. This is the heart of it.