The presumed front-runner for the Best Documentary Oscar next year, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory is already running into some opposition before the film can even be nominated. According to the Associated Press, Todd and Dana Moore have written directly to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences documentary branch pleading for them not to choose the already shortlisted doc as a finalist, because it glorifies Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley and celebrates their recent release from prison.
“We implore the Academy not to reward our child’s killers and the directors who have profited from one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated under the guise of a documentary film,” the letter reads.
Their son, Michael, was one of the three young boys brutally murdered 18 years ago, for which Echols and the other two men, famously known as the West Memphis Three, were tried and convicted. Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have documented the story in a trilogy of Paradise Lost films, the attention of which helped remove Echols from Death Row.
Earlier this year, just weeks before the new film’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, they were all freed through a rare arrangement known as the Alford plea, a deal allowing the WM3 to maintain innocence, which the Moores’ letter criticizes:
“Because of public pressure that exploded due to gross misrepresentations of fact in the two previous documentaries, Michael’s killers were unjustly able to enter into a plea agreement, were released from prison and now pose additional threats to society.”
Berlinger has responded publicly about the letter, to the Jonesboro Sun (as quoted by AP):
“We feel tremendous sorrow for them. We understand why a film that comes to a different conclusion than they do would make them feel this way. We stand by our films. We fervently believe the West Memphis Three are innocent.”
The Moores can be seen in the original film, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, which they regret participating in because they were “misled” and “manipulated” by the filmmakers.
Paradise Lost 3 will also soon be honored with a special Hell Yeah Prize at the 2012 Cinema Eye Honors.
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