Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow morning (24 Jan 2012), and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory is a frontrunner for a Best Documentary Feature nomination.
Todd and Dana Moore, parents of murder victim Michael Moore, wrote a public letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences urging them not to honor Paradise Lost 3.
PO Box 721
2004 Main St.
Hughes, AR 72348
November 22, 2011
Chairman Robert P. Epstein
8949 Wilshire Blvd
Beverly Hills CA 90211
Re: Paradise Lost III: Purgatory
Dear Chairman Epstein and members of the Documentary Branch of the Academy:
We are Todd Moore and Dana Moore.
Our cherished eight-year-old son, Michael, was brutally murdered on May 5, 1993 by Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin. Misskelley was tried and convicted in 1994. Baldwin and Echols were convicted by a separate jury later that year. All three entered Alford pleas to our son’s murder August 19, 2011. They are now, as they have been for the past 17 years, guilty as a matter of law. They have been guilty as a matter of fact since the moment water flooded Michael’s lungs after he was beaten, stripped, hogtied, and then discarded into a stream to drown.
Michael was the joy of our lives. In addition to our son, his murderers also tortured and slaughtered two other children, Christopher Byers and Stevie Branch. These three precious victims were classmates and friends, and their loss was a tragedy felt throughout the entire community.
We are horrified to learn that a documentary that glorifies Michael’s killers, Paradise Lost III: Purgatory, is among 15 documentaries being considered for an Academy Award. Because of public pressure that exploded due to gross misrepresentations of fact in 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. This third documentary further insulted the families of these three boys and may lead to further injustice. 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.”
We realize that documentaries have a point of view and advocate a position to some degree or another. As with the two before it, this film crossed the line into a cruel hoax that had real-life consequences larger than even those of us who still mourn our horrific losses. It is not art. This film is cynical and exploitative deception that compounds our pain needlessly and rewards those who inflicted it. It and the two films that preceded it are simply tasteless tabloid entertainment presented as social commentary.
We are private individuals. The directors, Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger, are aware of this because we refused to participate in their last two films. We appeared solely in the first film because the directors lied and told us their purpose would be to “protect children.” You can imagine our shock and disgust when the first film opened with gruesome and gratuitous images of the crime scene and remained exploitative and salacious until the credits rolled. It did nothing to promote child welfare. It did everything to support child killers and to benefit monetarily from a ghastly crime.
We were hardly the only people Sinofsky and Berlinger misled or manipulated.
Consider what happened to John Mark Byers. He was Christopher Byers’ adoptive father. Confrontations between Mr. Byers and Echols’ supporters at hearings were staged. Of course, Berlinger and Sinofsky were there to film these episodes. Berlinger and Sinofsky would transport Mr. Byers to the hearings and wire him for sound beforehand. Furthermore, Berlinger and Sinofsky maneuvered Mr. Byers and Echols’ supporters in order to film the anticipated confrontations. Later, after the cameras were packed away, Mr. Byers acted like a different person. Instead of being belligerent, he was affable. When asked about his change in demeanor, Mr. Byers stated that he was supposed to act that way when the cameras were present. Mr. Byers was quoted as saying he received $500 per hour for “exclusive interviews.”
These contrived “confrontations” and other distortions caused many viewers to believe Mark was the “real killer.” It had a terrible impact on his life. We brought this to the attention of HBO. Our complaint was ignored because these falsehoods proved lucrative.
The complete list of distortions would be a long one. The above example is illustrative of the manipulation and distortions that are prevalent throughout the entire Paradise Lost franchise. The films are bereft of ethics, principles, or factual accuracy and basis.
Publicity from the first two films did generate millions of dollars in donations. Much of that money went toward the defense’s investigation of the case. Not a single piece of exculpatory evidence was produced. In other words, between $10,000,000 and $20,000,000 has been collected, although no one knows the exact amount collected or how it was spent. In eighteen years, nothing was found to clear the names of the actual killers. Late last year, the windfall that went toward the legal defense resulted in the granting of an evidentiary hearing which was set to be held a few weeks from now. Instead, the murderers opted to initiate a plea negotiation with the State. As a result, they remain convicted of the deaths of three children.
We have to note that this situation is similar to the one that confronted the Academy when Capturing the Friedmans was nominated for Best Documentary Film of 2003. Two of the Friedmans’ sexual abuse victims presented another Open Letter to the Academy. Capturing the Friedmans had much more artistic merit and integrity than Paradise Lost III: Purgatory, yet it did not receive the award. The Academy made the right decision then, and we pray it does so this time as well.
Not surprisingly, I support the Moores 100% on this. All three Paradise Lost films are extremely dishonest works which omit or misrepresent key evidence in order to glorify scumbags who tortured and murdered children for kicks. Other filmmakers should hold Berlinger and Sinofsky in disgrace, not honor them.