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Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four excavates the nightmarish persecution of Elizabeth RAMIREZ, Cassandra RIVERA, Kristie MAYHUGH, and Anna VASQUEZ - four Latina lesbians wrongfully convicted of gang-raping two little girls in San Antonio, Texas during the Satanic Panic witch-hunt era of the 80s and 90s. In this riveting \'True Crime\' tale, these women fight against mythology, homophobia, and prosecutorial fervor in their struggle for exoneration.
This film starts with its journey into a Texas prison, where 4 Latina lesbians have to be locked up for more than 10 years. In 1994, Elizabeth RAMIREZ, Cassandra RIVERA, Kristie MAYHUGH and Anna VASQUEZ was convicted of gang-raping two young girls. During trials, their lesbian identities were overly sexualized and demonized, and medias covered this trials in sensational way to produce ‘aggressive lesbian sex offenders’. The process of this witch-hunt combined prejudices toward labor class with low income, colored people, and lesbian women. This film is an event occurred in the intersection of race, class, and sexuality.
The director of this film, Deborah ESQUENAZI employs the style of crime investigation documentary which traces back the court struggles, but, at the same time, uses home video footages of these women who were once friends or partners to convey us their personal narratives. Instead of being solely focused on the investigation, these video footages allow audiences emotional access to their lost lives due to the court struggles and days of imprisonment. This film raises a controversial question on how the discourse of child protection, and the juridical passion on indictment of criminals creates social prejudice, and even manipulate certain lives as unlivable ones. (Hong So-in)
Deborah ESQUENAZIDeborah ESQUENAZI
Deborah ESQUENAZI is an Austin-based documentary filmmaker, instructor, and journalist. Her work explores the intersections of mythology and justice, identity and power. Her debut feature, Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four, received international attention for its initial investigation into the high-profile ‘San Antonio Four’ case and has been written about in Forbes Magazine, The NY Times, The Texas Observer, The Marshall Project, and many other publications.