Corruption, self-interest and rampant bigotry are so clearly portrayed in this riveting documentary that if it doesn't make you angry, maybe there's something wrong with you. As filmmaker Amy Berg explores a shocking case from Arkansas, the intractability of the American legal system is highlighted with a lucid and engaging account of the facts. And it's such a skilfully shot and edited film that it leaves us in no doubt about the truth.
At the centre is a multiple murder in May 1993, which the police claimed was the result of a satanic ritual. So they arrested three goth teens whose counter-culture lifestyle made them seem like the logical suspects. After the trial, Echols was sentenced to death, while Baldwin and Misskelley received life sentences. But observers noticed a string of anomalies in the case: the three 8-year-old victims were not acually killed in an occultic way, and there was plenty of proof that the three teen convicts were innocent. For nearly 20 years the cause of the "West Memphis Three" was taken up by lawyers and celebrities around the world. But the Arkansas court has refused to examine new DNA evidence and would only let the three now-men out of prison if they acknowledged their guilt.
Filmmaker Berg has a huge archive of material at her disposal, including footage from the original police investigation, press coverage, video of the trials and extensive interviews with everyone involved. Assembled together this gives us a remarkable big picture of the chain of events, not only letting us see that these three convicted murderers are innocent but hinting at who the real killer might be. The fact that the court still won't hear the facts is so mind-boggling that we begin to worry if the system in West Memphis is capable of justice at all. Especially when police and prosecutors so obviously twist the evidence away from the facts.
Continue reading: West of Memphis Review
Though punk was a reaction to the safe, staid, cash-register mentality of the '70s arena-sized music scene, it found itself all too quickly co-opted into the industry. Groups like the Sex Pistols disintegrated, The Clash morphed into an adventurous roots-rock, pseudo-ska outfit that started playing radio-friendly hits in arena gigs of their own, and The Ramones, well, they just stayed doing what they always did, never more or less popular than when they started. When the 1980s dawned, music seemed just as escapist as ever, only now many of the outfits were New Wave, punk's bastard offspring, retaining some of the adventurous musicality and edgy fashion sense but little if any of the antiestablishment anger. With a clenched-fist conservative like Reagan in charge, and a mainstream culture just as lobotomized as that of the previous decade, American punks realized there wasn't going to be another Clash coming around, and if they wanted more music of its raging ilk, they'd have to create it on their own. Enter hardcore.
Continue reading: American Hardcore Review
Tim Irwin's smart, funny, and affecting documentary about the band makes no great claims about the Minutemen's genius -- in fact, he leaves ample room for numerous scenesters at the time who scratched their heads at the group's look and sound. Instead he concentrates on the close friendship between Boon and Watt, childhood friends who put together a punk band not so much because they loved the Ramones or the Clash but because they loved the idea of creating their own culture out of whole cloth. They were comically naïve at first, thinking that basic stuff like tuning wasn't essential; some guitarists liked their strings "loose," they figured, while others preferred them "tight." But soon enough they'd invented a spiky, insistent sound that packed a surprising amount of movement into very brief tunes with provocative titles like "Little Man With a Gun in His Hand," "Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs," and "Jesus and Tequila." (Most listeners figured they were called the Minutemen because their songs often clocked in at under 60 seconds, though Watt debunks that notion in the film.)
Continue reading: We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen Review
Over the course of three seasons, Greenlight made mountains out of molehill-sized production problems for the benefit of its drama-craving audience. The program also took joy in vilifying bullish producer Chris Moore, a headstrong professional whose chief crime was trying to keep unfocused amateur film makers on track. Not surprisingly, the weekly episodes ended up being more entertaining than the theatrically released films.
Continue reading: Feast Review