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An Oscar-nominated documentary whose filmmakers are credited with helping a man escape death row could win big Sunday night, but not everyone is celebrating.
The family of a Cub Sscout murdered in the killings explored in the series of West Memphis 3 documentaries asked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to deny Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory Oscar eligibility. That request was denied in December, the Associated Press reports.
“It would not be possible for the Academy – its leadership, executives, or administration – to insert itself into this process without risking the integrity of this longstanding procedure and of the awards themselves,” wrote Rob Epstein, chair of the Documentary Branch Executive Committee, in a letter dated Dec. 13.
In a letter which came to public attention just days before the Academy Awards, Epstein expressed sympathy for the family’s anguish.
“I would not trivialize your pain by asking for your understanding, but I do hope this has clarified the organization’s role in the Awards process,” Epstein wrote.
The parents who requested the film be barred, Todd Moore and his ex-wife Diana, said the Paradise Lost films glorify the men convicted of their son’s murder.
Their son Michael was one of three boys killed in 1993, a crime for which West Memphis, Arkansas teens Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were convicted.
Questions of their guilt gained momentum in 1996, after the first Paradise Lost film was released. The three became a cause célèbre, the subjects of benefit concerts and protests, and were freed from prison late last year.
The newst addition to the film series was not picked by THR Oscar prognosticator Scott Feinberg to win the statue. The still-grieving father, however, believes the documentary will win. For him, each new film about the murders causes fresh pain.
“It’s kind of like an open wound,” Moore said. “It starts to heal, and all of a sudden something else comes out.”
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Sterling K. Brown