One of the most influential documentaries in recent years, the Sundance favorite PARADISE LOST is an emotionally raw, must-see crime doc from two of today's most exciting filmmakers--Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (the t... more »eam behind Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, Brother's Keeper). This dark odyssey began with the tragic murders of three 8-year-old boys, whose bodies were discovered in a shallow creek in West Memphis, Arkansas. The community demanded justice, and one month later the police delivered: three local teenagers accused of sacrificing the boys as part of a Satanic ritual. Despite overwhelming public antipathy towards them, defendants Damian Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley steadfastly maintained their innocence. Although the trial produced virtually no physical evidence connecting the defendants to the crime, the town, the jury, and the police felt that they had their killers, and used the young men?s penchant for heavy metal music and black clothing and a fascination with the Wicca religion as evidence of their guilt. With unprecedented access to all the players, Berlinger and Sinofsky captured the events as they unfolded before their cameras. From actual courtroom footage and clandestine jailhouse interviews to behind-the-scenes strategy meetings and intimate portraits of grief-stricken families, PARADISE LOST is a shocking yet uniquely American real-life drama. DVD Features: Exclusive Trial Footage; Timeline of Events; Trial Updates; Theatrical Trailer; Filmmaker Biographies; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection« less
Jeff V. (burielofmel) from HARRIMAN, TN Reviewed on 7/30/2008...
If you get this you should also try to get the sequel. If you buy the sequel, don't watch it until you watch this one first. This is a very interesting film.
3 of 5 member(s) found this review helpful.
One of the most incredible and disturbing films ever made
Douglas Carpenter | Pennsylvania | 11/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film motivated me to do my own research and I read as much material on the case as I could possibly find--especially arguments from those who maintained that the three teenagers are guilty. To be honest, I had a natural skepticism about the West Memphis Three's claims of innocence. A coworker of mine was brutally murdered some years ago and two of her "friends" who were also coworkers were arrested for the murder. I refused to believe it at first. But it became clear over time that the evidence was overwhelming and conclusive. Still there were those who refused to believe the facts and zealously argued their friends' innocence. When all is done and said - it does come down to facts and whether or not one chooses to face reality and believe facts.
First, please allow me to correct a few misconceptions from some of the other reviewers.
The Michael Moore mentioned in the credits refers to one of the little eight-year-old child murder victims, not the filmmaker.
A couple of reviewers mentioned a necklace worn by Damien Echols which supposedly had blood on it from some of the victims. Actually, nothing more determinable than common blood types was found. One almost microscopic spot on the pendant was consistent with the blood type of Damien Echols (one of the accused), the other micro-spot was consistent with the blood type shared by both Jason Baldwin (one of the accused) and Steven Branch (one of the eight-year-old victims) -- as well as 11% of the rest of the Caucasian population of the United States. All experts agree that tiny micro-spots of blood can be transferred by a number of ways--especially a teenage boy wearing the necklace against their bare skin. Police photos verify that Jason Baldwin had also worn Damien's necklace. Police photos taken two days after the crime--show Damien without his shirt and reveal absolutely no cuts, abrasions or scratches whatsoever.
The closest thing to credible evidence the prosecution could manage to produce were four very tiny fibers found in the houses of Damien's family and Jason's family which were deemed by the prosecution to be microscopically similar to fibers from two of the victims. But even the prosecution's expert witness, Lisa Sakevicius a criminologist from the State's Crime Laboratory acknowledged that this was inconclusive and could have just as well come from mass-produced products obtained off the shelves of the local Wal-Mart. Furthermore, Charles Linch of the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Science in Dallas refuted the claims of microscopic similarities in his testimony. No fibers whatsoever were found in the home of Jessie's family.
During the appeal process forensic scientists examining the crime scene photos and autopsy photos identified human bite marks on two of the victims. This was confirmed by a forensic odontologist. Teeth impressions were taken from the three young men in prison. None of these teeth impressions from Damien, Jason and Jessie matched these bite marks found on the victims.
The highly coerced "confession" from Jessie Misskelly Jr. (a 17-year-old borderline retarded boy with an IQ of 71) was so filled with obvious errors that it is an obscenity that it was treated as the basis for making these arrest. I should mention that this so-called "confession" came after submitting this boy to a 12 hour grueling without lawyers, parents or counsel of any kind and included a polygraph test which he had passed but was told by the police that he had failed. Judge Burnett would not allow the jury to hear about these interrogation techniques.
Jessie Misskelly Jr. refused to testify in court against Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols stating that he simply "was not going to get up there and tell a bunch of lies". This was in spite of an offer to remove his life sentence.
Read Dan Stidham's (Jessie's lawyer) case synopsis by copying and pasting the web address below:
The scenario painted by the police and the prosecutors against the three teenagers is simply a scientific impossibility. How on earth could there have been the massive blood loss caused by ceremonial satanic cult killings of three persons in the middle of the night without leaving one single micro-speck of blood or any other body fluids at the scene? Did they sneak in the FBI Forensic Team to clean up after them when nobody was looking? Luminal testing could reveal blood presence only where the police had laid or transported the bodies. It should also be mentioned that none of the scarce shoe prints at the scene matched Jason, Jessie or Damien either. .
For a scientific view--see this crime scene analysis and profile by one of America's leading forensic scientist which also gives some insight on who might have actually committed the crime. I must warn you - it is a bit gruesome to say the least:
So let us briefly summarize. Much of the so-called evidence was based on the notion that Damien admitted an interest in the Wicca religion and the occult which many local people perceived as Satanism. This is not evidence of committing murder. You can go to any suburban shopping mall bookstore or small town library anywhere in Middle America and find plenty of books on such subjects. Furthermore, neither Jason nor Jessie had ever expressed any particular interest in Wicca or the occult.
Both Damien and Jason wore mostly black clothes and loved heavy metal music. So what? The police actually confiscated 15 black T-shirts from Jason's home as evidence to prove God knows what.
Damien was undoubtedly a troubled teenager from a troubled family. He was a bit of a wise-ass teenager. He wrote some morbid poetry. So what?
A couple of young girls claimed months after the fact that they had heard Damien say that he committed the murders. Any reasonable-objective person listening to those testimonies would have found them implausible to put it politely.
A young burglar/drug addict who was in the juvenile detention facility claimed that the shy and reserved 16-year-old Jason confessed to him the second time they ever met ghastly stories about drinking blood from the genitals of a murdered child while worshipping the devil. The counselor from that facility warned the prosecution that this young man was not credible and gave them detailed reasons. And there is no evidence that Jason and this young man ever met. Even if they did--the story is ridiculous. Still, Judge Burnett would not allow the jury to hear counter-testimony or information that could have challenged the credibility of this witness.
The so-called "confession" of Jessie and the scenario put forward by the police and prosecution would have involved massive amounts of blood left at the scene. There was not even one tiny micro-spec. That is a physical impossibility.
The simple fact is ALL FORENSICS were either exonerating or completely inconclusive.
"There was a lack of physical evidence to tie anyone or anything to the crime scene." --John Fogleman, prosecutor of the West Memphis Three--
Sadly, the West Memphis Police would not do anything more than a cursory and disinterested investigation of the most obvious suspect. (See the forensic profile mentioned above) Probably because that obvious suspect who had a violent history including family violence and a lifetime as a penny-anny career criminal was also an undercover narcotic informant who was in a very tight relationship with the West Memphis Police.
Anyway, for God sakes--see this film along with Paradise Lost 2 and read Devils Knot. .
This is not a political film. This case has nothing to do with being liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, left or right or even whether you support or oppose the death penalty. I hope that we of all political persuasion agree that locking up the wrong people and letting the real killers get away is a very bad idea.
For an in-depth analysis of all details of this case-see these two websites. And if it touches your conscience please consider trying to help:
Caraculiambro | La Mancha and environs | 05/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Paradise Lost is definitely one of the most mind-blowingest movies I've ever seen.
Not that it's in my list of all-time favorite films; it's just that this is the kind of film that really knocks you back: it'll change your mind about a few things and really make you think. You won't be able to forget it.
So why haven't these people issued it on DVD? What's wrong with them? I keep recommending it to people but they can only find it on VHS, which nobody wants to buy anymore. This has to be one of the most memorable films I've ever seen. What are they thinking?
Without telling you too much, here's what you need to know: there has been a murder in rural Arkansas, and some local boys who don't quite fit in (i.e., they have been dressing in black and listening to Metallica) are fingered for it. The film, a gut-wrenching documentary, follows them through their trial and analyzes the evidence for and against their innocence. The film is especially recommended if you enjoy documentaries that get into forensic evidence.
Have you ever been in a plane when, just for second, it abruptly loses some altitude, and your stomach seems like it dropped through the floor? You're gonna feel like that for a couple of days or so after seeing this movie.
I should also note that, in addition to a direct-to-video followup film, the internet is STILL abuzz by people who were affected by this film and ardently follow the fate of the "West Memphis Three."
No connection, incidentally, with the Milton epic."
Their time is running out, Support the West Memphis Three!!!
mrgrieves08 | tucson | 06/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On May 6, 1993 the mutilated bodies of three eight year-old boys were found abandoned along a lonely riverbank on the outskirts of West Memphis, Arkansas. They had been brutally murdered; to this date their killer(or killers have not been brought to justice. Paradise Lost is a startling film about this tragic case, which focuses on the so-called West Memphis Three, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelly, and the terrible miscarriage of justice that their trials represent.
What happened in this case could be called a modern day Witch hunt that was fueled by paranoia, lurid rumor, wild speculation and rush to judgment that led to the convictions of three innocent youth simply because they happened to be different from those in their community. So while this is also the story of three young boys who were murdered, which is tragic enough in itself, it is also one of three others that are being murdered by a legal system corrupted by ignorance, prejudice and hate. That there is absolutely no physical evidence of any kind linking any of the three to the murders should be alarming in itself to anyone who has any faith in the American legal system, and considering that the three were convicted solely on the weight of a coerced confession, which was later recanted, these facts should make any reasonable person seriously question what happened here. Not surprisingly, the same police officers who coerced a confession from Jessie Misskelly, a person who also suffers from mild retardation, have totally ignored the possibility of any other suspects and have deliberately destroyed evidence that contradicts the story they concocted. In addition, it is obvious to any observer of the case that even the judge seemed to have a preconceived opinion of the defendant's guilt and decided against them time and time again to ensure their convictions. Am I saying this is some vast police conspiracy carried out to wreck the lives of three young men, whose only crime was being different? No, but what I am saying is that when law enforcement officials adhere to a win at all cost mentality the first victim of such tactics is always truth and after that is dispensed with justice always follows, piling injustice upon injustice, tragedy upon tragedy, while the real murderer or murderers remains free. Doesn't the innocent victims of these heinous crimes deserve better than this? Where is their justice?
What can we really say about our precious freedoms and are great legal code when people who are different from us are still being persecuted for no other reason than their differences, just as they were in Salem in 1691? Is it a crime to listen to Metallica and wear black clothes? Is it a crime to read books written by Anne Rice and Aleister Crowley? Is it a crime to be interested in Wicca? As this case sadly illustrates, in some parts of this country apparently it is, and if new trials or clemency is not granted soon, the penalty for their deviations from the accepted "norms" will be death for Damien Echols, while Jessie Misskelly and Jason Baldwin will most likely spend the rest of their lives in prison. If this is allowed to happen can we really say we live in a fair and just society, can we really say that we are truly free?"
Chilling indictment of American "justice" system
Kerry Delf | Eugene, OR | 11/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Paradise Lost" is a documentary film that will permanently open viewers' eyes to the tragic miscarriages of justice that can occur in the American court system. Warning: Viewing this film may result in emotional discomfort and sleepless nights.
With more felony cases being reopened and overturned every day, often due to reexamination of physical evidence with DNA testing unavailable when the cases were first tried, false convictions are beginning to cause a stir in the public consciousness. "Paradise Lost," however, depicts not a case in which physical evidence was misinterpreted, but something much more disturbing: a horrific murder case in which a justice department, law enforcement organization and twelve members of a jury chose to prosecute and convict three easy (but likely innocent) targets rather than do the difficult work of searching out the actual guilty party.
"Paradise Lost" is a warning cry to all Americans, demonstrating that innocence is *not* always assumed until guilt is proven, and that a rush to judgement can create situations of unparalleled injustice.
For more information, visit the West Memphis Three Support Site..."
Jamie Jambon | North Carolina, USA | 02/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"First of all, one review stated that the name of Michael Moore, the filmmaker and political commentary writer, appears in the credits of this documentary. I'd like to note that the name Michael Moore does appear, but it is because it is the name of one of the murder victims.Onto the video. I'd say the main bias I noted was that the documentary had a very apparent goal of making most of the citizens of West Memphis appear as backwoods and backwards as possible. That said, as the investigation and trial procedures come into play, one cannot deny the ignorance and carelessness which led to the fate of the West Memphis Three.The injustices depicted in this documentary are positively heartbreaking. Even thinking abstractly that the U.S. court system can be corrupt, it is hard to imagine a circus of a case like this existing outside of the world of fiction. It's definitely left an impression on me; I've continued to research the case and simply can't get it out of my mind.For a more detailed account of this case, I suggest the book "Devil's Knot," which goes to greater lengths to show Damien Echols' darker side as well, which lends an impartisanship which was somewhat lacking in the documentary. However, the book only makes one more certain of the conclusions drawn from the documentary."