Sony Pictures Classics officially announced their acquisition of the Peter Jackson-produced project in February, and have now set the US release for the film for 25th December, which naturally puts it in perfect position for a run at the Oscars early next year.
“WEST OF MEMPHIS tells the untold story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light; a fight to stop the State of Arkansas from killing an innocent man.
Starting with a searing examination of the police investigation into the 1993 murders of three, eight-year-old boys Christopher Byers, Steven Branch, and Michael Moore in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas, the film goes on to uncover new evidence surrounding the arrest and conviction of the other three victims of this shocking crime – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley. All three were teenagers when they became the target of police investigation; all three went on to lose 18 years of their lives – imprisoned for crimes they did not commit.
How the documentary came to be, is in itself a key part of the story of Damien Echols’ fight to save his own life. The film reveals how close he, his wife Lorri Davis, along with his legal team, friends, and close supporters, came to losing that battle. But as Echols, who spent eighteen years on death row, himself has stated, “…in the face of such horror, in the face of resounding grief and pain, you cannot give up … you must never give up.””
The events have been made into a three-part acclaimed documentary on HBO, and have most recently been adapted into a feature film, Devil’s Knot, starring Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth, Bruce Greenwood, Kevin Durand, Dane DeHaan, Mireille Enos, and Amy Ryan.
Sony Pictures Classics have a very promising few months ahead of them, with the US releases of James Ponsoldt’s Smashed on 12th October, Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone on 16th November, and Michael Haneke’s Amour on 19th December, all three of which have been hotly tipped for the Academy Awards, with their release dates suggesting the studio will be very busy with awards campaigns later this year.
West of Memphis will be released by Sony Classics on 25th December in the US. No word yet on a UK release for the film, but if the documentary does head to the Oscars, we may see it arrive on our shores sometime next year.