Obsessed young lovers, obscene murders, a sensational trial, and a shocking miscarriage of justice. THE PROMISE is a riveting dissection of the prosecution’s case, the courtroom battle played out on television, and the disturbing aftermath. Convicted of brutally murdering his girlfriend’s parents, Jens Soering has been in prison for over 30 years. The film reveals for the first time the mounting evidence of his innocence: the FBI profile of the killer withheld from the jury, the bloody footprint and unidentified fingerprints pointing to other perpetrators, and the new exculpatory DNA analysis. Highly cinematic in the way of The Staircase, as suspenseful as Serial, and as confounding as Making of a Murderer, THE PROMISE delivers a powerful story that is indeed, stranger than fiction.
Perhaps their lives would have turned out differently if Jens Soering and Elizabeth Haysom had not kept their love letters. When they were arrested in London on April 30, 1986, it was the collection of love letters that aroused suspicion with the police. In these letters Jens and Elizabeth frequently fantasized about the death or transformation of Elizabeth’s parents, prompting the investigators make inquiries with Virginia law enforcement. In those pre-Internet times, in which cooperation and communication between jurisdictions, let alone in different countries, was uncommon, except for the letters, Jens and Elizabeth might have gotten away with just the cheque fraud they were arrested for. In our bonus material, you can find exclusive excerpts from these letters – read by Daniel Bruehl and Imogen Poots. They illustrate how obsessive and tempestuous this love was.
Chuck Reid was a member of the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department and one of the investigators in the Haysom murder case. In an interview, he spoke about a FBI crime scene profile that was created for the case in 1985, but which was not turned over to the defense or mentioned in court. The profile described a female suspect and does not fit the confession of Jens Soering. Reid is confident that there was such a crime scene profile. But Ricky Gardner claims it never existed.
Ricky Gardner describes himself as a “lead investigator” in the Haysom murder case. He was there when Jens Soering confessed to the murders in London without a lawyer. To this day, Gardner defends the comparison made in court of Soering’s sock imprint found at the crime scene even though experts later said that this comparison was wrong and misled the jury.
Rich Zorn (right), former Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General and a friend of the Soering family. His son went to the same school as Jens Soering. He supported the family for many years and is committed to the cause of Soering’s transfer to Germany.
Gail Marshall, former Deputy Attorney General of Virginia, has been fighting for Jens Soering for many years. She is certain of his innocence and says she only had two cases in her entire career where she was firmly convinced that the prisoners were innocent. One is now a free man, the other is Jens Soering.
Tom Elliott, a Catholic deacon and chaplain, who accompanied Soering for many years. He is one of the few that visits him regularly in prison. He is just in the process, together with other supporters, to push once again for Soering’s transfer to Germany.
Dave Watson, a private investigator who was hired by Gail Ball to reinvestigate the case.
Steven D. Rosenfield, Jens Soering’s new repatriation attorney, filed suit on January 18, 2011, to enforce his transfer to Germany. On January 12, 2010, the Democratic Governor of Virginia, Timothy M. Kaine, consented to the repatriation of Jens Soering to Germany. A week later, the new Republican Governor, Robert F. McDonnell, sent a letter withdrawing Virginia’s consent to Jens Soering’s repatriation. In July 2012, a court ruled against his repatriation lawsuit; in December 2012, the Virginia Supreme Court refused to even hear the appeal.
William Sweeney, the judge who led the Haysom trials. He swore that he was unbiased, even though he had given an interview before the trial in which he said he thought Jens Soering was guilty. In addition, he was a friend of the brother of one of the victims for over 40 years.
Tony Buchanan, a new witness, who came forward in 2011 to say that, in 1985, Elizabeth Haysom brought a damaged car to his garage, accompanied by another man – not Jens Soering. In the car lay a bloody knife. The witness was never officially questioned.
Ed Sulzbach was a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a highly respected FBI-profiler. He was the recipient of the FBI's Medal of Valor and FBI Star, two of the Bureau's highest honors. He investigated the crime scene at Loose Chippings and wrote a psychological profile, in which he concluded that the perpetrator very possibly was female and someone close to the family. Sulzbach's presence at the crime scene was never mentioned in court. Jens Soering's lawyers were not aware of the existence of a profile, which would have been exculpatory evidence. According to the Bedford County Sheriff's Department, the profile never existed, and several FOIA requests for the profile remain unanswered. He died on April 13, 2016 at the age of 75.
Carlos Santos, a journalist, who followed the case from the beginning.
The double murder of Nancy and Derek Haysom in 1985 was a media spectacle. The Haysoms were well-respected community members in their hometown, Lynchburg, Virginia, then they were brutally murdered, almost executed, in their home. The court trials, in which their daughter Elizabeth Haysom and her German boyfriend Jens Soering were tried for the murders, were broadcasted live on US television - something unheard of previous to the case. You can study and follow the developments in the case over thirty years through our exclusive and extensive archive which contains newspaper articles and TV materials. The archive is unique in that it holds the most complete collection of American and German articles and TV materials from 1985 until today. The material was made available by the Virginia Press Service News Clipping Bureau, by different newspapers, journalists and the WSET 13 Daily News Channel.
|22. Filmfest Turkey||Germany||March 4, 9.00 pm||more|
|March 6, 9.15 pm|
|RiverRun IFF||USA||March 31, 12.30 pm *||more|
|April 1, 7.00 pm *|
|DOC aviv||Israel||May 12, 6.00 pm *||more|
|May 14, 6.00 pm *|
|DOCS against GRAVITY||Poland||May 12-26 ***||more|
|DOC EDGE||New Zealand||May 18, 8.00 pm *||more|
|May 20, 1.45 pm *|
|May 27, 8.30 pm *|
|May 28, 8.45 pm *|
|DOCS Barcelona||Spain||May 20, 10.00 pm *||more|
|May 25, 07.30 pm *|
|57 KFF Krakow Film Festival||Poland||May 28 - June 4 ***||more|
|Durban IFF||Southafrika||July 13-23||more|
|Kota Kinabalu IFF||Malaysia||July 22-29||more|
* With Q & A with director Marcus Vetter and/or co-director Karin Steinberger
*** Screening dates will be announced soon
More international festivals screenings will be announced soon.
"The Promise" wins the "Öngören Award" for Democracy and Human Rights at the 22nd Filmfest Turkey in Nuremberg
On Saturday March, 11 2017, the documentary feature film "The Promise", by filmmaker Marcus Vetter and journalist Karin Steinberger, was awarded the "Öngören Award for Democracy and Human Rights" at the 22nd Filmfest Turkey Germany in Nuremberg .
|Filmfest Munich*||Germany||Jun 23 – Jul 2||more|
|DMZ DOCS*||South Korea||Sep 22 – 29||more|
|Reykjavik IFF||Island||Sep 28 – Oct 10||more|
|DOCSDF*||Mexico||Oct 13 – 22||more|
|Virginia Film Festival*||USA||Nov 3 – 6||more|
|Denver Film Festival*||USA||Nov 8 – 11||more|
|DOC NYC*||USA||Nov 13||more|
|IDFA Amsterdam*||Neatherlands||Nov 16 – 27||more|
|Chile||25 - 30 Nov||more|
The Virginia Film Festival is proud to present the North American Premiere of The Promise, a gripping documentary about one of Virginia’s most notorious crimes and the many questions that still surround the case 30 years later. Echoing the hit Netfilx series Making a Murderer and the NPR sensation Serial, The Promise looks back at the gruesome 1985 double murder of Nancy and Derek Haysom in bucolic Bedford County, Virginia, and the man who continues to proclaim his innocence after three decades of incarceration. German national Jens Soering and his girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom, both honor students at the University of Virginia, were convicted of the crimes in 1990 and German filmmakers Karin Steinberger and Marcus Vetter present a fascinating look back at a complicated and troubling true crime story that has returned to the headlines in the last month, thanks to a defense team claim of newly-discovered DNA evidence that could impact the case.
On Saturday, November 5, "The Promise" celebrated its US premiere with 1040 seats sold out premiere at the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville. After the film Jens Soering spoke in a radio interview to the enthusiastic and touched audience and apologized publicly to the University of Virginia – a very moving and emotional moment. Afterwards, a panel discussion took place with director Karin Steinberger and the protagonist Steven Rosenfield, Gail Marshall and Chuck Reid. The event was moderated by the reporter Sandy Hausman.
Co-Director Karin Steinberger presents "The Promise" with extended Q&A.
Friday, March 31. 2017 - 12.30 pm
Saturday, April 1. 2017 - 07.00 pm
Saturday, Nov 13. 2016 - 8.45 pm
VPRO offers a special "Extra Screening" at IDFA, a special Q&A where the creators give an insight into the production of the film and share some outtakes. The discussion is moderated by Nick Fraser.
Friday, November 18. 2016, 3 pm at EYE Cinema 1
The Promise was selected for the Master Program at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam. The IDFA Masters section presents a selection of the latest films from "prestigious documentary films".
Wednesday, November 16. – 8.15 pm | Tuschinski 3*
Friday, November 18. – 3 pm | EYE Cinema 1*
Saturday, November 19. – 9.30 pm | Brakke Grund Expozaal*
Thursday, November 24. – 3.15 pm | Mut 09
Friday, November 25. – 1:45 pm | Tuschinski 2
The directors Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger together with the producers Louise Rosen and Ulf Meyer present the film with Q&A after the screening.
|05.00 pm||ARRI KINO|
|11.30 am||ARRI KINO|
|06/30/2016||07.30 pm||City 3|
|10.00 am||Gloria Palast|
Love, Hate, Betrayal: This year’s line up of films from New German Cinema run the gamut between affection and violence. They encompass everything from a love story, to a true crime documentary, a pitch black comedy and a road movie and include works from young directors as well as new works from well known names.
“Filmfest München is one of the most important platforms for innovative German films”, says festival director Diana IIjine. It shows the best that German cinema has to offer. Sixteen films and three documentaries will have their world premier as part of the line up of the section New German Cinema.
The Documentary “The Promise” shows just how close love and crime are sometimes intertwined. It tells the story of the brutal double murder of husband and wife Nancy and Derek Haysom in 1985. Convicted of the crime was Jens Soering, the German boyfriend of the couple’s daughter Elisabeth. Imogen Poots and Daniel Brühl narrate.
Karin Steinberger, Marcus Vetter and their team spent over three years researching this case, which achieved world-wide notoriety. They uncovered new evidence, including a profile og the FBI which has been never presented in court. A controversial doc about a great love and perhaps a great injustice, and an American legal system spun out of control.
Filming Jens Soering's lawyer Gail Ball and private investigator Dave Watson in the evidence room in Bedford.
Marcus Vetter (director) and Georg Zengerling (camera) at a shooting in Bedford.
Aljoscha Haupt (sound) and Georg Zengerling (camera) shooting film material in front of the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy, Virginia, in which Elizabeth Haysom is detained.
Marcus Vetter (director), Georg Zengerling (camera) and Aljoscha Haupt (sound) shooting film material in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Georg Zengerling (camera) and Aljoscha Haupt (sound) in Bedford, Virginia.
Ricky Gardner in his office in Bedford.
Private investigator Dave Watson with Aljoscha Haupt (sound) and Georg Zengerling (camera) in Cape Charles.
Aljoscha Haupt (sound) and Georg Zengerling (camera) after filming.
Filming with Chuck Reid in Bedford.
Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger at a shooting with Chuck Reid in Bedford.
John and Suzanne Peniche in Lynchburg in front of their home in which Elizabeth Haysom's parents were murdered in 1985.
Aljoscha Haupt (sound) at a filming in Bedford.
The film crew and Jens Soering's lawyer Gail Ball in Virginia.
Private investigator Dave Watson in Washington DC.
Mike Gentile (second camera) and Georg Zengerling (camera) in New York City.
Our goal is to create a platform for the independent production of documentaries and fiction films. We are interested in using our unique backgrounds and styles to create feature length films that are high quality and tell stories that people throughout the world can relate to. We strive to do this by focusing on creating material that is powerful, edgy, provocative, contemporary and must be seen because of its political or social relevance. Our vision is to create a network of filmmakers and commissioning editors around the globe who believe, like we do, that films do make a difference. Our aim is to create a student filmmaking program for young people who would otherwise not have a chance to be educated in this field.
|A production of||Filmperspektive|
|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|
|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.|