“Every morning, when I open my eyes and see the thick bars across my window I cannot help but think back to that evening my downfall began.”
The first time Karin Steinberger met Jens Soering in person, he had already been a prisoner for 20 years. He had spent more time incarcerated than walking free. That was in August 2006. He was talking about his great love for Elizabeth Haysom, about lies and betrayal. It was a flood of words; he spoke as if his life depended on it. And repeatedly this one phrase: I am innocent.
That was 10 years ago. Since then he wrote her nearly every day, his letters are full of rage, and sometimes of hope. And there are news with every visit: There was a parole-hearing, during which the chairman fell asleep, in front of everyone present. Like all pervious parole applications, this one was also denied. Then there was this new witness, who exonerated Soering, but no official had any interest in him. There was DNA evidence from the crime scene, but none matched that of Jens Soering. A moment of hope came when Tim Kaine, the democratic governor of Virginia, declared Jens Soering’s transfer to Germany. And it was destroyed when his republican successor, Bob McDonnell stopped the transfer on his first day in office. Jens Soering stayed prisoner number 1161655, given two life sentences for the murder on Nancy and Derek Haysom, who were stabbed to death in their home in Lynchburg, Virginia, on March 30th, 1985. The question that still lingers: Is Jens Soering guilty beyond reasonable doubt?
Three years ago Karin Steinberger asked Marcus Vetter if he would like to make a movie about this case. All those inconsistencies, procedural errors, and unanswered questions. The story seemed far from finished. At this moment Jens Soering was in prison for 27 years.
Karin and Marcus have worked together previously, on two documentaries: “Hunger“ (2009) and “The Forecaster“ (2015). And now they looked at the Haysom-killing, a story that seemed written in Hollywood. Two brilliant students meet each other at the University of Virginia, she was beautiful and bold, he was very intelligent and arrogant. They fall in love, become a couple, and then Elizabeth’s parents get killed.
At first the police have no traces, but they get closer and closer to the couple. So Elizabeth and Jens flee to Asia, Europe, and finally get caught in London for cashing bad cheques. They both confess the murder during interrogations, then revoke. Soering says, he confessed to safe her from the electric chair. Haysom says: He did it. The great love turned into a deadly betrayal.
The interview with Jens Soering by Steinberger and Vetter in the Buckingham Correctional Center is the last he is allowed to give in front of a camera. Since then: No more filming. By accident Steinberger and Vetter get the complete video footage of the processes. The gruesome double murder was a public sensation back then in the US, to be seen every day live on TV. The footage is another sensation, you can see everything: How Elizabeth Haysom wraps herself up in lies, how Jens Soering’s lawyer fails because of the special procedural rules in the state of Virgina, how Jens Soering’s with his juvenile arrogance turns everyone against him, how facts get twisted and how crucial questions never get asked.
The movie shooting has its own impact: Steinberger and Vetter get to know the FBI-agent, who had made a perpetrator profile; however its existence has been denied by officials to this very day. Together with a private investigator Steinberger and Vetter search for witnesses who, without any stated reason, have never been asked to give testimony in court. They learn that the abuse of Elizabeth Haysom by her mother is still a taboo. Nude pictures of Elizabeth taken by Nancy Haysom are to this day under seal and cannot to be found.
Jens Soering was in prison for 30 years, one month and 24 days when the movie had its world premiere on June 24th, 2016 at the Filmfest in Munich. The movie’s effects are already noticeable. What remains is one crucial question: Is Jens Soering guilty, beyond reasonable doubt?
Munich, August 8th, 2016
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For more information please contact: info(at)filmperspektive.de
Editorial: Karin Steinberger
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World Sales: Louise Rosen
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Sales Germany: Farbfilm Berlin
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|A production of||Filmperspektive|
|Original title||The Promise|
|A film by||Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger|
|In co-production with||SWR, ARTE, BR, DR, BBC, SVT, VPRO|
|Directed and edited by||Marcus Vetter|
|Year of Production||2016|
|Consulting Producer||Peter Broderick|
|Director of Photography||Georg Zengerling|
|Bonus materials||Andrea Stettmer|
|Christoph von Stieglitz|
|Original Music||Jens Huerkamp|
|Sound Design||Markus Limberger|
|Sound Mix||Jonathan Schorr|
|Line Producer||Annette Burchard|
|Color Correction||Fabiana Cardalda|
|Legal Advisor||Albert Kitzler|
|Commissioning Editors||Gudrun Hanke el Ghomri, SWR|
|Catherine Le Goff, ARTE|
Petra Felber, BR
Mette Hoffmann Meyer, DR
Nick Fraser, BBC
Kate Townsend, BBC
Axel Arnö, SVT
|Nathalie Windhorst, VPRO|
|Founded by||MFG and DFFF|
|Distributor, Germany||Farbfilm, Berlin|
|World Sales||Louise Rosen Ltd.|
|North American Distribution Representatives||Louise Rosen/Louise Rosen Ltd.|
Peter Broderick/Paradigm Consulting
BRD 2016 / Shooting: April 2014 – June 2015
Format: HD/35mm / Shooting Format: HD
Sound Format: Dolby Digital/ 1:1.85