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Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory


The truth hurts.

Rod Lott August 21st, 2012

I can't believe — just. cannot. believe. — that Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory lost the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature this past spring. And to a football movie, no less! It's another case of the jocks running ragged over the outcasts, except these outcasts were able to effect something few docs achieve: change.

paradiselost3

Co-directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) have chronicled the so-called "West Memphis Three" almost as long as the three young men at the story's center were affixed with that unfortunate label for being accused of and convicted of killing a trio of boys in small-town Arkansas in 1993.

The first Paradise Lost documentary was released in 1996; the second, in 2000. Both raised questions of the men's guilt, which helped fuel public interest. As a result, we have a third and presumably final part.

Skillfully assembled with previously unused material, but also serving as a solid recap of events prior, Paradise Lost 3 offers a self-reflexive, satisfying end to a trilogy one wishes never had a reason to exist. It covers not only the release of the West Memphis Three, but also the filmmakers' own hands in it — quite a turnaround from the beginning of the project, when the directors thought the young men were guilty. Now, even family members who were ready to lynch the WMT have come around to reason and gone on record on saying justice was miscarried.

While the WMT’s release is something to celebrate, it’s important not to forget that it means a killer is still out there, although the film raises evidence that points to a likely suspect.

Be forewarned: Early footage of the crime scene and family members’ emotional breakdowns are deeply, deeply disturbing. If you can make it through that, you’ll witness a testament to the power and importance of documentary filmmaking. —Rod Lott

 
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