Bruce Sinofsky, Oscar-Nominated Documentary Filmmaker, Dies at 58

Bruce Sinofsky Dead
Jamie McCarthy/WireImage

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Bruce Sinofsky died early Saturday morning in his sleep from complications stemming from diabetes, his frequent collaborator Joe Berlinger told Variety. He was 58.

Sinofsky covered a range of topics in his career — from heavy metal to murder cases.

He is best known for the “Paradise Lost” trilogy, a series of films he made with Berlinger about the West Memphis Three, a group of teenagers convicted, despite a lack of evidence, of murdering and sexually mutilating three prepubescent boys. Prosecutors claimed the children were killed as part of a satanic court ritual. Those films helped draw attention to miscarriages of justice associated with their trial and conviction. A number of celebrities including Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins and Johnny Depp also rallied to the cause.

Public pressure resulted in the Arkansas Supreme Court allowing the three men — Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin — to be released after serving 18 years and 78 days in prison. Sinofsky and Berlinger were nominated for an Oscar for 2011’s “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” just months after the men were freed.

He also won an Emmy for co-directing 1996’s “Paradise Lost” and a Directors Guild Award for teaming with Berlinger on 1992’s “Brother’s Keeper,” which looked at an elderly man accused of murdering his brother.

In a statement to Variety, Berlinger remembered that Sinofsky urged him to work on “Brother’s Keeper” in 1991 despite the fact that they lacked equipment and financial backing.

“His unique combination of courage and empathy made that possible, as well as everything that came after for us,” Berlinger said. “The extraordinary adventures we had on the road and the deeply stimulating experiences we had in the editing room were life-changing for all of us who knew him thanks to his wisdom and fervor to change the world.”

Sinofsky was also passionate about music, as evidenced by his work on “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” and “Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records” for PBS’ “American Masters.”

His other credits include episodes of the Sundance Channel series “Iconoclasts,” an installment of History’s “10 Days that Unexpectedly Changed America,” “Oprah’s Master Class: Civil Rights Special” and numerous other film and television projects.

“Bruce’s humanity is on every frame of the films that he leaves behind, and words can’t express how graced I feel my life has been by having the extraordinary opportunity of being able to say we were partners and, more importantly, best friends,” Berlinger said.

Sinofsky also won a Peabody, an Independent Spirit Award and accolades from the Sundance Film Festival.

He graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and kicked off his career working as an editor at Maysles Films, the company behind such legendary documentaries as “Grey Gardens” and “Gimme Shelter.”

A memorial service for Sinofsky will be held in March.

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  1. DLKirkwood says:

    My condolences to his family and friends. Diabetes is a horrible disease to have.

  2. arteatromexperu says:

    Reblogged this on Arteatromexperu's Weblog.

  3. Mike says:

    the Arkansas Supreme Court did not release the three as the article reports. They should better research their facts. The three were released as a result of a plea deal with the prosecutor whereby they would plead guilty to first degree murder, drop their appeals of their convictions and be sentenced to time served and a lengthy suspended sentence.

    • HUSH says:

      Cool it. This article is in remembrance of a man with a family, friends, and a very notable career. There are plenty of other places on the internet to whinge about “the facts”. Or you could, you know, contact Variety privately and directly and request a clarification. Because God Forbid you just let visitors to this page remember Bruce.

    • haute.pepper says:

      They didn’t have their convictions overturned, but they were most certainly released, just as the article says. The prosecutor has no authority to release prisoners. It most certainly was done by the Arkansas State Supreme Court. Jason wanted to stay and fight but agreed to the plea deal at Damiens urging. The reporting is absolutely accurate.

      • Mike says:

        The Supreme Court had nothing to do with their release. Do some research. They had a pending hearing for a new trial that the lower court judge was soon to rule on. That’s the only thing the Supreme Court directed – that the lower court review the alleged “new” evidence to see if a new trial was warranted. You will find no order of the Supreme Court directing their release. Before the lower court judge ruled on the motion for new trial the parties agreed to a plea deal as I outlined above.

    • haute.pepper says:

      They didn’t have their convictions overturned, but they were most certainly released, just as the article says. The prosecutor has no authority to release prisoners. It most certainly done by the Arkansas State Supreme Court. Jason wanted to stay and fight but agreed to the plea deal at Damiens urging. The reporting is absolutely accurate.

      • Mr. Todd is right. The ASSC ordered an evidentiary hearing be held to determine if new trials were warranted. Several months before those hearings were held in a trial court, the three pled and were released on time served and with a suspended sentence over their heads. The Variety writers made a pretty egregious error here but so much crap is spewed about the WM3 that’s hardly new.

      • haute.pepper says:

        Sorry for the double post. My bad. Don’t know how to delete the extra

  4. Jon Solita says:

    I remember driving Bruce and Joe around Chicago a few years ago when I was still working as a Production Assistant. They were both incredibly nice, even though I kinda geeked out and told them I was a huge fan. They told me bits about Paradise Lost 3 before it was finished. At one point, Bruce wanted to stop to get a Chicago Red Hot near Orleans and Division, but Joe wasn’t interested. Crazy to think that was probably his last chance to have a real Chicago hot dog. Bruce was not only a talented filmmaker, but a warrior for social justice. I feel so lucky to have worked with him and will cherish that opportunity for the rest of my days. It’s not every day you get to work alongside your childhood idols. Rest in peace, Bruce, and my heart goes out to all his family and friends.

  5. Bruce was a big part of my life and changed it forever. He will be missed every day. Major talent, incredible person. Thinking of you, Bruce.

  6. stevenmillan says:

    A very sad loss to the documentary film world,for I do notice the extremely terrible BLAIR WITCH 2 not being included amongst the films he made with his filmmaking partner Joe Berlinger.

  7. c simpkins burke says:

    you inspired so many of us… rest in peace.. much love and aloha to Family and Friends of Bruce… your ICONOCLASTS was my sugar .. SOME KIND OF MONSTER got me ( and many of my wild crazy wonderful filmmaker friends ) back into therapy! thank Gd! Your PARADISE LOST trilogy woke us ALL up inside… you will be missed .. Thank you for all you brought us and thank you to your generous family for sharing your vision with your hungry and grateful audience …so beautifully your Partner and Brother Berlinger put it : .. ” your humanity is on every single frame’ MALAMA PONO… Aloha , C

  8. Nancy Jones Cook says:

    R.I.P. and thank for for what you did for Jessie, Jason, and Damien.

  9. Mantle Head says:

    ‘Some Kind of Monster…’ , great stuff…

  10. Lisa Friedrichs says:

    Always thankful to who I work for and grateful when they speak about their craft. It was such a pleasure working for him and Joe Berlinger while they were in production in the Mid-South.

  11. Metangel says:

    Wow. Met Bruce at the Maryland Film Festival in 2003. He was so nice and answered a never ending stream of #Metallica questions from the audience.

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