• For a decade and a half, Eddie Vedder worked tirelessly with a team to free Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley who, as teenagers, were sentenced to life in prison for the murder of three eight-year-old Arkansas boy scouts (Echols was sentenced to death). The 18-year nightmare -- plus their release in August 2011 -- is chronicled in the new film West of Memphis, directed by Amy Berg and produced by Peter Jackson, which presents new evidence suggesting the trio's innocence."I'm grateful that I can live in a country and feel at least like there is some hope," Vedder says. "If Damien would have been executed that would have been something I can't even imagine."

    Read more at Rolling Stone.

  • Hearing A Mother's Song After Tragedy

    Natalie Maines started performing "Mother" in public last summer, joining Ben Harper, who's producing her upcoming solo album (also called Mother) on a few of his tour dates. It's now featured on the soundtrack to the new documentary West of Memphis, which recounts the story of a different kind of infamous tragedy. In 1993, three young boys were murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas; three teens were convicted on flimsy evidence and a likely coerced confession. The story of the imprisoned young men (who became known as the West Memphis Three, and were released in August after nearly two decades of appeals) has become one of the best-known illustrations of mangled justice in contemporary America. Maines and many other celebrities took of the cause of the West Memphis Three, raising awareness and making contributions that helped lead to trio's eventual liberation.

    Her interpretation of Roger Waters's lyrics helps the original becomes something new -- something bigger, I think. In Pink Floyd's version, Roger Waters sings the part of the boy revealing his night terrors; David Gilmour, singing as the mother, is prissy and cruel, restricting his reach. Maines leaves the song's vaguely misogynist lyrics intact, but her plaintive, tender reading, intertwining with Harper's equally gentle guitar lines, reveals the terror and helpless yearning that feeds the effort to control. Freed of the male voice that made "Mother" into a diatribe against femininity, Maines's interpretation becomes a tender acknowledgment of how fear can entrap all of us, even when we want to do nothing but love.

    Read more at NPR.org.

  • 'West Of Memphis' - The New York Times Review

    “West of Memphis,” a work of fierce documentary advocacy directed by Amy Berg (“Deliver Us From Evil”), follows the successful crusade to free three men convicted of murder 18 years ago in a sloppy, hysterical rush to justice.

    Inspiring but infuriating, this impassioned 2 ½-hour film focuses on Damien Echols, the most articulate of the so-called West Memphis Three. Mr. Echols was given the death penalty, and the others -- Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr. -- were sentenced to life in prison for the killings of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark., in 1993.

    Read more at The New York Times.

  • Sometimes a documentary about a newsworthy story, becomes part of the story itself.

    Directed by Amy Berg (“Deliver Us From Evil”), “West of Memphis” is a new documentary about the case of three men known as the West Memphis Three. The film was never planned, but was produced by some high-profile filmmakers: Peter Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh (the Oscar-winning team behind the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit”). Also on the producer list is the main subject of the film, Damien Echols, who was on Death Row for 18 years, after he, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were convicted for the murders of three young boys. Echols’s wife, Lorri Davis, who in the film shares the story of how she met and married Echols, is the fourth producer.

    The film is the unexpected product of a yearslong investigation funded by Jackson and Walsh as they supported Echols’s defense team in the fight to free Echols and clear his name of a crime they say he didn’t commit. Speakeasy talked with Jackson, Berg, Echols and Davis about the documentary.

    Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

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