Saturday, March 2, 2013

Texas Filmmaker Screens In-Progress 'San Antonio Four' Doc

This afternoon at San Antonio's CineFestival, Austin-based journalist, photographer and filmmaker Deborah S. Esquenazi will screen 45 minutes of footage from her upcoming feature documentary The Recantation.

The title says it all. As Esquenazi delved into the controversial case of four Latina lesbians individually sentenced in 1998-2000 to 15 and (in one case) 37 1/2 years for sexually assaulting two young girls, something remarkable happened.

Per a recent article in San Antonio's The Current:

Last year, one of the "victims" recanted, telling Innocence Project of Texas (IPOT) lawyers and Esquenazi, on camera, that she was coerced and threatened into making up the whole story. Indeed, the [now in her mid-20s] woman's recantation is one of the more powerful clips in Esquenazi's arsenal. For nearly a year Esquenazi has followed the women's case, interviewing them in prison and following the developments as they unfold.

Anna Vásquez (pictured), the first of the "San Antonio Four" to be paroled last November, was not cleared by the parole board to join Esquenazi at this afternoon's CineFestival event. Following the screening, the director will take part in a panel discussion featuring attorney Mike Ware, advocate Mary Sue Molnar and moderator Elvia Mendoza, who is writing a dissertation about the film-case.

When the women were tried and convicted in 1998 and 2000, there was shockingly no major hard evidence logged against them. Instead, the quartet was largely done in by the testimony of a local medical expert and some general hysteria at the time about "satanic ritual" whisper-cases.

Esquenazi is a dynamic force in Austin. She also runs "Stories from Deep in the Heart," an NEA-funded initiative through which she makes radio documentaries with under-served teens. There is no doubt that once The Redemption is complete, it will garner a whole new level of media attention. The movie's ultimate goal is to speed the release of Elizabeth Ramirez, who received a 37 1/2 year sentence, and Cassandra Rivera and Kristie Mayhugh, sentenced at that same time (2000) to 15 years each.

Update - 07/14/13Esquinazi's project is one of 29 selected for grant support by the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund / John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Initiative. More info about the program and other 2013 selected projects here.

[The Recantation]

No comments:

Post a Comment