Docs

Filmmaker Bruce Sinofsky passes away at 58

The Oscar-nominated director (left) frequently collaborated with Joe Berlinger on such projects as the Paradise Lost trilogy. (Pictured: Paradise Lost 3)
February 22, 2015

Filmmaker Bruce Sinofsky, an Oscar-nominated documentarian and frequent collaborator with Joe Berlinger on such projects as Metallica: Some Kind of Monster and the Paradise Lost trilogy, passed away on Saturday (February 21) at the age of 58.

Sinofsky died in his sleep after a long battle with complications from diabetes, according to Berlinger.

In addition to his collaborations with Berlinger, which also included Brother’s Keeper, Sinofsky also helmed Good Rockin’ Tonight: The Legacy of Sun Records for PBS’ ‘American Masters’, episodes of the Sundance Channel series Iconoclasts, an installment of History’s 10 Days that Unexpectedly Changed America, and numerous other film and television projects.

The many honors Sinofsky received over the course of his 30-year doc-making career included a Peabody, multiple Emmys, an Independent Spirit Award, and accolades from the DGA, Sundance and many others.

Beyond the awards, however, was the impact felt by moviegoers from such work as the Paradise Lost trilogy. Beginning in 1996 with the original documentary and wrapping in 2011 with Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, the films followed the story of the West Memphis Three – three young men charged in their teens with the grisly murders of three eight-year-old boys. With the films having drawn global attention to the case and the fervent belief of many, including the filmmakers, that the teens did not receive a fair trial, The West Memphis Three were eventually released in 2011, after 18 years of imprisonment.

Discussing the trilogy and the chances for another sequel with realscreen, Sinofsky said: “Maybe we’ll have the urge five years from now to see what’s happened to these guys but right now they should just be living their lives. They don’t need cameras stuck in their face. They’ve been very kind and given us great amounts of time over the years. If they want to see us, let them see us as friends, not as filmmakers. I think they’ve earned that privacy.”

In a statement to realscreen, Berlinger recalled the challenges and triumphs they shared over the course of their partnership.

“Bruce encouraged both of us to throw caution into the wind to start capturing what would become Brother’s Keeper in 1991 with no money in our pockets, in the pre-video 16mm age of documentary-making, when making a no-budget film took a little more ingenuity to get in the can,” he said. “His unique combination of courage and empathy made that possible, as well as everything that came after for us. 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.

“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 added.

Rock band Metallica, who were documented during a particularly stressful time in their history by Sinofsky and Berlinger for Some Kind of Monster, posted a tribute to the filmmaker on their website, which read in part: “Bruce, along with Joe Berlinger, was the architect of our film Some Kind of Monster. Smart, funny and dedicated, Bruce was with us almost every day in the early 2000′s and was an integral part of helping us to navigate the rough waters during those times.

“Although not very welcomed at times, he was there through some of the darkest times of Metallica. He became a dedicated comfort and visual lifeboat, while objectively observing the unraveling and rebuilding of our inner and outer selves.”

A memorial service will be held in March.

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