"We'd been shut down by the court system," Davis says. "We didn't know what else to do to get this information about the case out to the public." That's when Berg, whose 2006 doc Deliver Us from Evil was nominated for an Academy Award, was approached by Jackson about the possibility of filming the continuing saga of the West Memphis Three. A former investigative journalist, Berg's experience in the field led to some very interesting interview footage of subjects hitherto undocumented, including two young men — friends of a nephew to victim Branch's stepfather — whose rather late-in-the-game affidavits may turn out to be the impetus for the state to reopen the investigation that the West Memphis Three have been hoping for.
"Amy just has this amazing ability to wait it out," Davis says. "People would just open up to her."
But where were these witnesses before West of Memphis? There's been a reward offered on new information for years, and it seems like there's been plenty of opportunity for folks to come forward before now.
"There's such a culture of fear in Arkansas, and in the South in general," Berg considers. "I really think everyone was concerned for their own well-being."
It remains to be seen if breaking the long silence of a cluster of perjurers and procrastinators will translate into a reopening of the case; word is there's some movement in that direction. But for now, at least, the public finally has a chance to hear the testimonies that the West Memphis Three have waited so long to present.
WEST OF MEMPHIS opens Fri/8 in San Francisco.