August 2011 Featured Filmmaker Joe Berlinger

Editor’s Note: A court in Ecuador has told oil giant Chevron Corp to pay $8.6bn in environmental damages, but the US company has termed the court order as “illegitimate and unenforceable” and said it would appeal. Read more.

“In 1993, three eight-year-old Arkansas boys were brutally murdered and dumped in the woods. Three innocent teenage boys were arrested and convicted, despite the lack of evidence. Damien Echols was scapegoated because he wore black, listened to Metallica, and had a youthful fascination with Wicca; incredibly, he spent his youth on death row. His friend Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life in prison. A false confession was wrangled out of mentally handicapped Jessie Misskelley, Jr., who later recanted, but got a life sentence anyway.” Featured Filmmaker Joe Berlinger followed the case. More.

Crude the Movie Joe Berlinger is an award-winning filmmaker, journalist and photographer, whose films include the celebrated documentaries Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost, and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster.

“A fascinating and important story. CRUDE does an extraordinary job of merging journalism and art.”

Christiane Amanpour, CNN Chief International Correspondent

Crude filmmaker, Joe Berlinger

Crude filmmaker, Joe Berlinger

Three years in the making, this cinéma-vérité feature from acclaimed filmmaker Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster) is the epic story of one of the largest and most controversial environmental lawsuits on the planet. The inside story of the infamous “Amazon Chernobyl” case, Crude is a real-life high stakes legal drama, set against a backdrop of the environmental movement, global politics, celebrity activism, human rights advocacy, the media, multinational corporate power, and rapidly-disappearing indigenous cultures. Presenting a complex situation from multiple viewpoints, the film subverts the conventions of advocacy filmmaking, exploring a complicated situation from all angles while bringing an important story of environmental peril and human suffering into focus.

Joe Berlinger made his first independent film in 1989. Outrageous Taxi Stories, a documentary short, became a cult favorite on the festival circuit. Three years later, Berlinger and frequent collaborator Bruce Sinofsky received international acclaim for their Sundance-winning feature Brother’s Keeper. Named 1992’s “Best Documentary” by the DGA, the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review, the film appeared on the “10 Best Films of the Year” lists of over 50 major critics. Brother’s Keeper became one of the most successful self-distributed documentaries of all time, helping usher in a new era of independent documentary filmmaking.

Released in 1996, Berlinger and Sinofsky’s Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills captured a year in the life of an Arkansas town as it came to grips with the most horrifying crime in its history. The film also revealed the innocence of three teenagers wrongfully convicted of capital murder, sparking an international movement to “Free the West Memphis Three.” Originally made for HBO, Paradise Lost had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. It went on to win a Primetime Emmy, a Peabody and the National Board of Review’s “Best Documentary” Award. The film was released theatrically by the filmmakers and played in over fifty cities across the U.S. Berlinger and Sinofsky’s Revelations: Paradise Lost 2 premiered on HBO, updating the story four years later. It was nominated for a Primetime Emmy and released in theatres by Artisan Entertainment. A third Paradise Lost film is currently in production.

Read Joe’s Bio at IMDB

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster debuted at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, and was released in the U.S. by IFC Films and shown theatrically in fifteen other countries, becoming an instant classic in the “rock doc” genre, drawing comparisons to Don’t Look Back, Gimme Shelter and Let It Be. The film won the Independent Spirit Award for “Best Documentary,” was nominated by the IDA for “Best Documentary Feature” and was placed on the “10 Best Films of the Year” lists of over 30 critics. The DVD of Some Kind of Monster was distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment, and was one of the company’s most successful music-related releases, selling over 1 million copies in its first year.

In addition to his feature documentary work, Berlinger has produced and directed a great deal of television, both fiction and nonfiction, including The Begging Game for ABC News and PBS/Frontline and Where It’s At: The Rolling Stone State of the Union, an ABC primetime special created in celebration of the magazine’s 30th anniversary. Berlinger was the creator of the VH-1 series “FanClub,” and the Court-TV series “The Wrong Man.” He was the director of HBO’s Judgment Day: Should the Guilty Go Free, an unblinking look at crime and the U.S. parole system, and the Emmy-nominated Gray Matter, which chronicled his personal search for 86-year-old former Nazi Dr. Heinrich Gross, for Cinemax, CBC and France 2. Berlinger’s fiction television directorial credits include Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana’s groundbreaking series Homicide, among others, and he directed and co-wrote the feature film Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 for Artisan Entertainment.

Berlinger is co-executive producer and director of the acclaimed series Iconoclasts, now in its fourth season on Sundance Channel. In 2006, he won an “Outstanding Nonfiction Series” Emmy as co-executive producer of The History Channel’s 10 Days that Unexpectedly Changed America, for which he also directed an episode about the assassination of President William McKinley and the rise of Theodore Roosevelt.

Berlinger is currently developing two narrative feature films which he plans to produce and direct: Education of a Felon about the life of cult prison novelist Edward Bunker; and Facing The Wind, based on Julie Salamon’s bestselling nonfiction book of the same name.

Berlinger’s articles and photographs have appeared in the New York Times, ArtForum, Film Comment, Aperture, and numerous other publications, and his first book, Metallica: This Monster Lives, The Inside Story of Some Kind of Monster, was published in 2004 by St. Martin’s Press.

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