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

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.

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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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