The film, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on January 20th, follows the investigation which led to the release of the imprisoned West Memphis Three – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. – all of whom were convicted in 1994 of the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas.
The controversial case attracted widespread media attention and spawned three HBO documentaries. Additionally, the case caught the attention of several celebrities – notably director Peter Jackson and his partner, Fran Walsh.
The premiere of West of Memphis, produced by Jackson, Walsh, and Echols and his wife Lorri Davis, attracted a full audience. Jackson, who introduced the film to an audience in which parents of the victims and several other people involved in the case were present, spoke again after the film, tearfully discussing the flaws in the American justice system. “It shows how fragile it is,” he said of the documentary, and “how the justice system can derail.”
"I hope the film will serve as a platform for a broader discussion about the failures of our criminal justice system nationwide," director Amy Berg noted. "I'm very excited for this powerful story to be making its way to theaters and know that having Sony Pictures Classics as our partner is the surest way to catapult our film to the widest possible audience."
Negotiations between Sony Pictures Classics and Ken Kamins, Jackson and Walsh’s manager and the film’s executive producer, led to Sony acquiring the rights to the documentary, making it the third 2012 Sundance film to be acquired by Sony (the company also bought Celeste and Jesse Forever and Searching for Sugar Man).