SALEM — Damien Echols and his wife, Lorri Davis, received a warm reception at the screening of their documentary “West of Memphis” at Salem Film Fest on Friday night.
While the film’s subject matter — the yearslong struggle to free Echols, who was convicted with two others for the brutal 1993 murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Ark. — has drawn controversy, none was found at the Friday night screening.
Questions posed to Echols and Davis after the film’s premiere Friday night were mostly complimentary. The couple moved to Salem last year.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Paul Van Ness, co-owner of CinemaSalem. “I was afraid it wasn’t going to be civil. ... There was none of that. It turned out great. I’m glad it did.”
Echols and Davis were met with applause as they walked to the front of the theater at the film’s conclusion. Some in the audience said they had followed Echols’ case for years.
When a person asked the couple about the matching tattoos they’d had done recently, Echols turned to his wife to ask what day they had gotten them.
“It was Wednesday!” called someone from the crowd, revealing that Echols is already well-known in his new hometown.
“West of Memphis” is one of numerous documentaries in the 2013 Salem Film Fest, which runs through Thursday.
Tickets to the film sold out in four days — a record for the festival, Van Ness said. The theater moved the Friday night screening to a larger, 154-seat theater and added a second showing, which is tomorrow night.
Echols and Davis will also attend tomorrow’s screening to answer filmgoers’ questions.
Echols was arrested in 1993, charged with three counts of murder and convicted in 1994, along with friends Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin. He spent 18 years in prison, facing the death penalty, before he was released in 2011.