In documentary terms the story of the West Memphis Three was initially examined by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky‘s Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (’96). Which was followed by Berlinger-Sinfosky’s Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (’00) and Paradise Lost: Purgatory (’11). And then at last January’s 2012 Sundance Film Festival came Amy Berg‘s West of Memphis (’12), the Peter Jackson-produced doc that I feel is the best telling of all.
But there’s still another version to come — a narrative drama from Atom Egoyan called Devil’s Knot, based on the 2002 true-crime novel by Mara Leveritt. Same story, same characters, same everything…except performed by Colin Firth as Ron Lax, Reese Witherspoon as Pam Hobbs, Kevin Durand as John Mark Byers, Bruce Greenwood as Judge David Burnett (original judge of the 1st murder trial), Elias Koteas as Jerry Driver, Stephen Moyer as prosecutor John Fogelman and Alessandro Nivola as Terry Hobbs (i.e., the likely culprit).
I’m mentioning this because two nights ago I was offered a chance to catch a couple of research screenings of Devil’s Knot — one scheduled to happen last night or tonight in West Hollywood, I was told, and one in Pasadena. I don’t attend these types of screenings, of course, but if it’s being refined now…well, it’ll probably debut at the Toronto Film Festival, right? Egoyan being Canadian and a mainstay of that gathering, etc. Or it could turn up in Cannes. The only question is “how many times are the people who would normally be receptive to a smart, grade-A true-crime film…how many times will these folks be wiling to go to the West Memphis Three well?”