I went to the third public screening of "West of Memphis" today, held at Little Rock's Trio's restaurant before a crowd of news media and WM3 supporters. Capi Peck, who has led the WM3 charge in the state, said the Little Rock screening happened at the request of Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, who produced the film, and who thought an Arkansas audience should see it as soon as possible. The new documentary about the West Memphis Three case had previously screened only at the Sundance Film Festival and at a Sundance-sponsored screening at Nashville's Belcourt Theater last Thursday.
In short: "West of Memphis" is a hell of a thing, and not just because it's a document about the millions of dollars and millions of people-hours it took to set three men free who shouldn't have been locked up in the first place (driving home, it will definitely make you think long and hard about the fate of those wrongfully convicted who don't have access to the legal, financial and public-relations machinery that finally pried the jailhouse doors off their hinges last August). While the film definitely has an agenda, sometimes it takes the determination that an agenda can provide to put a puzzle this complex together.
I plan on writing more about the film in the near future, but have to ruminate on it a bit first. For now, the highest praise I can give "West of Memphis" is this: by the end of it, I left with the feeling I've had with every truly great documentary I've ever seen (including the original "Paradise Lost")... that I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore.