It’s been 16 years since “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills,” Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s first documentary about West Memphis Three, premiered at Sundance. The film was instrumental in drawing the public’s attention to the case, the murder of three children that prosecutors claimed was part of a satanic ritual, convicting three teenagers using questionable evidence and investigative procedure. Since then, the filmmakers have returned to the story of Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin for two sequels, documenting how the three fought for a new trial and were eventually released in 2011 in an unusual plea deal.
And now, it seems, the story’s ready to come to TV in procedural form (all three docs aired on HBO). According to The Hollywood Reporter, Berlinger will serve as the executive producer of “Paradise Falls,” a scripted crime drama from “Boardwalk Empire” writer Margaret Nagle that recently sold to Fox. Loosely based on the two decades Berlinger spent covering the story of the West Memphis Three, the show will follow a down-and-out documentarian sent to the Pennsylvania town of the title to cover a trial for a reality show. The crime in question is a brutal one that’s plunged the area into turmoil, but as the filmmaker investigates the details of the case, he finds cover-ups and corruption that indicate that the locals are well aware of the proceeding’s potential for publicity and profit.
Documentary filmmakes to the rescue! The project in the least promises to offer an unusual type of protagonist for a network series. The West Memphis Three has garnered a lot of media and film coverage over the years on both the big and small screen, including 2012 doc “West of Memphis,” directed by Amy J. Berg and produced by Peter Jackson. Atom Egoyan’s upcoming film “Devil’s Knot,” starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, is also based on the case and everything that followed.