Almost every seat in the house full tonight at Little Rock’s Ron Robinson Theater in the River Market for the premiere of “Devil’s Knot,” the new film based on the exhaustively researched 2002 book by Times contributing editor Mara Leveritt about the West Memphis Three case.
The film focuses on the murders of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore, and ends just after the 1994 convictions of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin. Oscar Winners Colin Firth (as private investigator Ron Lax) and Reese Witherspoon (as Pam Hobbs) star. We’ll have a full review in next week’s issue and online.
Several members of the cast and crew were on hand tonight, including director Atom Egoyan, and actors Stephen Moyer, Rex Linn, and Kristopher Higgins. Jason and Holly Baldwin were also in attendance, along with Stevie Branch’s mother Pam Hobbs, and the mother and sister of Damien Echols.
During a question and answer session following the screening Atom Egoyan said that the extraordinary circumstances of the West Memphis Three case drew him to the story. “If you were to create this as a fiction,” he said, “no one would believe it.” He called the convictions in the case Kafkaesque, and said that it’s an example of the system failing because of the way the system itself is constructed.
Mara Leveritt said that she is taken by a line near the end of the film, in which Hobbs tells Lax “don’t forget about us” as he goes forward in trying to find evidence in the case. Leveritt said that because of the Alford Pleas accepted by Echols, Baldwin and Misskelly “we are left with a very cynical situation here.” She added that she was pleased that the film throws the focus of the case back on the original victims, Moore, Branch and Byers.
In answering one question from the audience, Leveritt sounded her familiar refrain that cameras need to be allowed into courtrooms to record the proceedings in criminal trials. Without the presence of HBO cameras in the trials of Misskelley, Echols and Baldwin, she said, things would have turned out differently. “Do we think,” she said, “that Jason Baldwin, who is here tonight, would be here if not for those original cameras in the courtroom?”