, Salem, MA


March 8, 2013

Letter: Documentary screening criticized

To the editor:

CinemaSalem screens the film “West of Memphis” tonight as a part of its annual documentary film series. Mr. Todd Moore, the father of Michael Moore, one of three 8-year-olds that Salem resident Damien Echols has pleaded guilty to murdering, posted a comment on the festival’s blog site protesting their presentation of the film. It reads in part, “How shameful for anyone to support this monster (Mr. Echols) that brutally murdered my son and his friends. It is a shame upon anyone who supports this monster or anything connected with him.”

The screening, of course, will go forward. “West of Memphis” was financed by the director of “Lord of the Rings,” Peter Jackson, and Echols has several other famous supporters. We live in a society that worships celebrity and notoriety. God forbid that the anguished plea of a father whose son was stripped naked of his Cub Scout uniform, beaten, hogtied and tossed into a muddy creek to drown should lead to soul-searching on anyone’s part. This is Salem, Massachusetts, not Hollywood, after all. It’s not every day we get to attend a screening followed by a Q&A with a man who has pleaded guilty to multiple child murder and who went out with Johnny Depp to get matching tattoos.

So what if FedEx withdrew its financial support of a conference recently when it learned that Echols, a convicted child killer, had been invited as guest speaker? This is New England, not the Deep South. We are more progressive and open-minded than those backwoods types down there. In fact, unlike those provincial rubes that run FedEx, rather than cancel a sold-out screening just because the father of a murdered child has objected, we have added a second screening and second appearance by the very man who pleaded guilty to his murder. The show, as they say, must go on.

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