Director Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky / 1996 / USA

Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. the team behind the astonishing documentary Brother's Keeper (MIFF1992). have turned their lens on the American obsession with multiple murder Paradise Lost uncovers the kind of small-town nightmare that is the documentary film maker's dream. Their dark journey begins with the killing of three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas and follows a labyrinthine investigation that lays the blame at the feet of three teenagers whom it is alleged sacrificed the children as part of a Satanic cult ritual. Closed-minded Arkansas yokels deemed the wearing of black T-shirts and listening to Metallica reason enough for the accused trio to be picked up for questioning-and a witch-hunt began. The reactions that the documentary captures range from the heart-rending to the creepy and bizarre the step-father of one victim displaying his attitude toward the accused by talking to a pumpkin as he blows it to pieces with a handgun. Amidst a media whirlwind of accusations including blood drinking, orgies, devil worship Ind demonic conjuring, Berlinger and Sinofsky examine larger social issues including the nature of good and evil, the fairness of the American justice system and the role the media plays in shaping the outcome of public events. With unprecedented access to all the players in this real-life drama, the film presents courtroom dotage, clandestine jailhouse interviews, behind-the-scenes strategy meetings and (intimate portraits of grief-stricken families in this strange yet uniquely American drama. A sad, lurid and transfixing story made even more topical by the recent tragic events in Port Arthur.

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