News Column

Hed

November 11, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 11--A red carpet would have looked garish and out of place at the closing night of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival on Sunday night considering the evening's star was Michael Morton, a Williamson County man who spent 25 years imprisoned for the murder of his wife, a crime he didn't commit.

The documentary "An Unreal Dream" reunited its three principles at a crowded Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

In attendance was Morton, whose experience didn't leave him embittered, but instead committed to promoting legal reform; his attorney John Raley, who with the Innocence Project cleared Morton's name and identified the real killer; and filmmaker Al Reinert, a documentary filmmaker and screenwriter who turned his camera to Morton's story.

Timing was right

Reinert said he was unaware of Morton's story until he heard about it through Raley, with whom he had mutual friends.

"I was struck by him as a person," he said between drags on a cigarette prior to the film's screening. "He was such an articulate man with a big heart. So gracious, even right when he was released. It made me curious."

The timing was right for Reinert, who wanted to get back into documentary filmmaking. He said he "always considered myself a journalist," having started his career as a cub reporter for the Chronicle working nights on the police beat. He worked for Texas Monthly, also, before beginning work on "For All Mankind," an award-winning documentary about the Apollo space mission.

He said his first big payday came for the feature film "Apollo 13," which earned Reinert an Academy Award nomination for best adapted screenplay.

Morton was all smiles prior to the screening. "It's not about me," he said. "It's about how our trials change us and make us who we are."

'A classic story'

Houston will be the final theatrical stop for "An Unreal Dream," though it's about to get much wider exposure. Next up for the film will be a Dec. 5 airing on CNN, part of the news network's nascent monthly documentary program.

"It's a classic story like 'Les Mis rables' and 'The Count of Monte Cristo,' Reinert said. "People have been telling stories like this for 200 years.

"It's such a tragedy if you're looking at it from the outside. But he doesn't see it that way. He lost so much but he found a way to turn lemonade into champagne."

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