West of Memphis

In 1994, three teenagers were convicted of murdering three eight-year-old boys. Amy Berg was making this riveting documentary when the court finally succumbed to increasing public and legal pressure and ‘freed’ The West Memphis 3.

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West of Memphis

  • Director-Screenwriter Amy Berg
  • Producer Lorri Davis, Damien Wayne Echols, Amy Berg, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh
  • USA 2012
  • 150 mins
  • UK distribution Sony Pictures Releasing UK

In 1994, in the town of West Memphis, Arkansas, three teenagers were accused of enacting satanic rituals and subsequently convicted of murdering three eight-year-old boys. Their confessions were inconsistent, the legitimacy of prosecution witnesses was spurious, but for 18 years the judge who presided over the initial court case denied successive retrial bids. Amy Berg, director of Academy Award-nominated Deliver Us From Evil, was making this riveting documentary when the court finally succumbed to increasing public and legal pressure and ‘freed’ The West Memphis 3. One of the falsely accused, Damien Echols, is a producer of this film, along with campaigner Lorri Davis (his wife), and filmmakers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. This unexpected collaboration accounts not only for the unswerving focus of the film, but also the unprecedented access which enables Berg to reveal new material about the well documented case and to convincingly posit the most likely culprit.
Clare Stewart

Director statement

In 2009, I received a phone call from Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh because they wanted to discuss a project with me. At the time, I didn’t know much about the West Memphis Three. After our first conversation – hearing the unwavering commitment in their voices as they spoke about the case; about the 15 years of injustice, an investigation rife with corruption, and the destruction of multiple lives – I knew I wanted to make the film. I understood that this was a story that not only exposed a frightening failure of justice within our legal system, but exposed a judicial culture where innocence did not matter. Soon after that conversation, I met Lorri Davis, the wife of Damien Echols. Lorri and Damien had been together for 16 years, married for twelve of them, yet had never shared a life together that did not involve prison bars, and shackles; a life of having to say goodbye every time they met. Much of my career has been devoted to the plight of all victims of the judicial system. The families of murder victims and the wrongly incarcerated both suffer from the same corruption that is endemic to the very institutions they look to for guidance and protection. Rarely had I come across a failure of justice with such profound consequences – three young men falsely convicted of crimes for which they were still imprisoned; six families’ lives forever destroyed while the real killer of three eight-year-old boys remained free.
Amy Berg

Director biography

Los Angeles-born, she has produced documentary segments for CNN Investigations and CBS News which earned her Emmy Awards in 2003 and 2004. In 2005, she launched Disarming Films to produce long-form documentaries for theatrical release. Her reports have delved into a variety of hard-hitting topics, including sexual assault, women in prison, clergy abuse, battered women, unsafe public playgrounds, poverty, illegal drug dispersion, illicit medical doctors and toxic pollutants. She has also produced stories on important issues relating to parenting, social welfare and innovative science and medical breakthroughs. Her first theatrical documentary, Deliver Us from Evil, about the abusive Irish priest Oliver O’Grady, was nominated for an Academy Award, and won the Writer’s Guild of America Documentary Award and the NY Film Critics’ Circle gong for Best Non Fiction Film. Her ten-minute film Polarized was made for Al Gore’s Live Earth Pledge project; and in 2010 she was a producer on Duane Baughman’s feature doc portrait of Benazir Bhutto.


2006 Deliver Us From Evil [doc]; Polarized [doc s]
2012 West of Memphis [doc]

Read the Time Out review.