First love, live sentence

The gruesome murders of Nancy and Derek Haysom in 1985 were a media sensation. The Haysoms were wealthy, respected members of Virginia society, and the murder conviction of their daughter Elizabeth and her German boyfriend Jens Soering sent shock-waves through the rural community of Bedford County. Elizabeth and Jens had met in a university program for high achieving students. She was a product of European boarding schools, he was the son of a diplomat. After being arrested in London, England, for passing bad checks in 1986, they were both extradited to the United States and have now spent over 30 years behind bars. This beautifully crafted film reveals a mismanaged, or perhaps completely corrupted, judicial process. This was the first criminal trial held in front of TV cameras — was the first high profile, international case tried in a small town.

In Theatres in the USA and on Video on demand

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A true Story

Investigations over the past 2 years have turned up stunning evidence that was previously suppressed or deemed inadmissible. New forensic techniques have disproven evidence that was key to Soering’s original conviction. Denied parole 11 times, his next hearing in 2016 may have a different outcome, at the same time the film is in release. Unidentified fingerprints, photographic evidence that points to sexual abuse, the presiding judge’s friendship with the victims, a missing FBI profile, a bloody car with a knife under the seat — all point to a very different story, one that is revealed in the film.

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Festivals 2017

22. Filmfest Turkey  Germany  March 4, 9.00 pmmore
March 6, 9.15 pm
RiverRun IFFUSAMarch 31, 12.30 pm *  more
April 1, 7.00 pm *
DOC avivIsraelMay 12, 6.00 pm *more
May 14, 6.00 pm *
DOCS against GRAVITY  PolandMay 12-26 ***more
DOC EDGENew Zealand  May 18, 8.00 pm *more
May 20, 1.45 pm *
May 27, 8.30 pm *
May 28, 8.45 pm *
DOCS BarcelonaSpainMay 20, 10.00 pm *more
May 25, 07.30 pm *
57 KFF Krakow Film Festival  PolandMay 28 - June 4 ***more
Kota Kinabalu IFFMalaysiaJuly 22.-29more

"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 .

Internatinal Festival Tour 2016

On November 5th the documentary "The Promise" had its US-premiere on the Virignia Film Festival. This is a very special location, because in Charlottesville 1984 Elizabeth Haysom and Jens Soering met the first time, right here, at the University of Virginia, where the movie will be shown as the festival's centerpiece. Screenings at the 39th Denver Film Festival and at DOC NYC have followed. Additionally, "The Promise" was chosen for the Masters Program at the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA). The IDFA Masters Program presented a selection of new movies from "renowned documentary directors".

Filmfest Munich*GermanyJun 23 – Jul 2more
DMZ DOCS*South Korea  Sep 22 – 29more
Reykjavik IFFIslandSep 28 – Oct 10  more
DOCSDF*MexicoOct 13 – 22more
Virginia Film Festival*  USANov 3 – 6more
Denver Film Festival*USANov 8 – 11more
DOC NYC*USANov 13more
IDFA Amsterdam*Neatherlands Nov 16 – 27more
DOCS Barcelona
Chile25 - 30 Novmore

* 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.

After a high-profile, televised trial – the first of its kind – the prosecution felt that justice had been served. But Elizabeth’s and Jens’s versions differ wildly, encompassing dark family secrets, selfless love, and broken promises – leading to an indictment of the American justice system. In their gripping investigation, Vetter and Steinberger explore what really happened on that fateful night, and why. Whatnotdoc, 12/15/2017

Featuring compelling real-life figures who practically invite casting guesses for the inevitable Hollywood dramatization, Killing for Love should easily satisfy viewers who can't get enough of this stuff. The Hollywood Reporter, 12/15/2017

Probably dives into the weeds too quickly and could have used a tighter edit. Still, drawing on a wealth of courtroom video, the film lays out a persuasive argument for reasonable doubt. The New York Times, 12/14/2017

A gripping murder mystery about the fated coupling of a pair of calculating romantics too smart for their own good, and the limits of the American justice system. Los Angeles Times, 12/14/2017

This documentary is very interesting and shows what’s wrong with the justice system. With voice work from Daniel Brühl reading Jens Söring’s letters and Imogen Poots reading Elizabeth Haysom’s letters, this doc discusses the case that saw two young lovers commit murder to be with each other. There is so much more to the story than what is initially mentioned. Red Carpet Crash, 12/13/2017

A bloody 1985 double homicide and the media hysteria that encircled it are revisited in this deeply sourced but frustrating investigation of whether justice was truly served. Film Journal International, 12/13/2017

Earlier this year, Netflix’s The Confession Tapes recounted, via six real-life cases, the ways in which false confessions might be elicited by law enforcement. But what if an untrue admission wasn’t the byproduct of coercion, or a suspect’s lack of education, or the terrible pressure of a given circumstance, but the result of maniacal love? The Daily Beast, 12/9/2017

The Promise is another engrossing story of how wrong the so-called justice system can go, the kind of documentary that would appeal to anyone who consumed Serial or “Making a Murderer,” or the type of person who reads true-crime thrillers. Triad City Beats, 03/29/2017

Anyone who has binged on Making a Murderer, Serial or even Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood will know the cocktail of emotions this increasingly popular and morally dubious genre induces: obsessive fascination, horror, cynicism and loss of faith in the justice system. I, for one, am getting sick of the bitter aftertaste.
The Guardian, =3/08/2017

At all events, it made for morbidly fascinating viewing, even at an extraordinary length for modern telly. Huffington Post, 03/03/2017

There are moments in the totally riveting Killing for Love when a fictional thriller suggests itself, complete with casting. What a drama! Financial Times, 03/03/2017

An absorbing true crime documentary. Cinevue, 01/13/2017

Familiar and satisfying...continues in the "New True Crime" tradition.
Brooklyn Magazine, 11/09/2016

A new documentary makes its US premiere at the Virginia film festival on Saturday at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville – where Söring and Haysom first met in 1984. Considerable resentment has been expressed locally that it is being shown at all. The Guardian, 11/05/2016

The real-life film noir, screened for reporters August 24, opens with lonely highways and dark country roads to Loose Chippings, the genteel Bedford home of Derek and Nancy Haysom, and then slams the viewers with gruesome murder scene photos that one investigator described as “like stepping in a slaughterhouse.” C-Ville, 08/31/2016


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.

Enter Newsarchive


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.

watch the bonus videos

In Coproduction with SWR, ARTE, BR, DR, BBC, SVT, VPRO

A production of Filmperspektive
A film by Marcus Vetter and Karin Steinberger
In coproduction with SWR, ARTE, BR, DR, BBC, SVT, VPRO
Directed adn edited by Marcus Vetter
Co-Director Karin Steinberger

Year of production

Producers Marcus Vetter
Louise Rosen
Ulf Meyer
Director of Photography Georg Zengerling
Co-Editors Michele Gentile
Patrick Wilfert
Bonus materials Andrea Stettmer
Christoph von Stieglitz
Sound Aljoscha Haupt
Mix Jonathan Schorr
Sounddesign Markus Limberger
Music Jens Huerkamp

Supported by MFG and DFFF

Colorcorrection Fabiana Cardalda
Line Producer Annette Burchard
Legal Advisor Albert Kitzler
Commissioning Editors Gudrun Hanke el Ghomri, SWR
Chatherine le Goff, ARTE
Petra Felber, BR
Mette Hoffmann Meyer, DR
Nick Fraser, BBC
Kate Townsend, BBC
Axel Arnö, SVT
Nathalie Windhorst, VPRO
Supported by MFG und DFFF
Distributor Germany Farbfilm, Berlin
World Sales Louise Rosen Ltd.

Germany 2016  / Shooting: April 2014 – June 2015 Format: HD/35mm 
Shootingformat: HD / Soundformat: Dolby Digital / 1:1.85