Filmmaker Deborah S. Esquenazi woke up to a phone call from attorney Mike Ware of The Innocent Project of Texas telling her the great news that “The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday that the women known as the “San Antonio 4” be declared innocent and exonerated.” This sentence was stated exactly in the court decision this morning.
The San Antonio 4 – Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez – four Latina lesbians wrongfully convicted of gang-raping two little girls in San Antonio, Texas over 20 years ago during the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s-1990s are the subject of Esquenazi’s award winning documentary film, “SOUTHWEST OF SALEM – THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR.” Despite flawed medical evidence and convictions based solely on testimony of two young girls, the women always maintained their innocence. The film chronicles their story and their fight for justice over the past two decades.
The film weaves together emotional interviews with the women and their families with actual news footage and home videos, equally showcasing the injustice of the situation and the families that were torn apart as a result. Unique to the San Antonio Four case, none of the four women ever took a plea bargain or even considered it, despite serving their time in separate prisons. While the state offered deferred adjudication, requiring no time in prison but probation for ten years, the women turned down the offer, maintaining their innocence and faith in truth and justice. And now they are totally exonerated and declared innocent.
The documentary, along with articles written in Rolling Stone, The Texas Observer, and the New York Times, was cited in the opinion section of the court’s decision.
“This is a stunning victory, not only for the San Antonio Four, but for gay rights,” states director Esquenazi. “I couldn’t have imagined that six years ago, with nothing more than a camera and shoe-leather persistence, that this day would come. It shows the power of art. It shows that even with no cultural capital, power, or resources, we can make great change.”
“SOUTHWEST OF SALEM” has won numerous awards at festivals across the globe and has come away with great reviews. It was recently honored by the Broadcast Film Critics Association with the Critic’s Choice Award for Best First Feature. It is also one of the 145 films that has qualified for this year’s Best Documentary Feature Academy Award®.
“A big congratulations to the extraordinary Innocence Project of Texas, whose singular commitment to truth was part of this great victory,” adds Esquenazi. “It really is a great day for justice in Texas—and a magical Thanksgiving for all of us.”
Investigation Discovery (ID) is the television home for the film, and will air an encore presentation of SOUTHWEST OF SALEM: THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR on Sunday, November 27 from 9AM – 11AM ET.
The film’s broadcast in OctoberThe documentary is currently available on Investigation Discovery’s TV Everywhere platform, IDGO.com, the network’s live and on demand TV Everywhere streaming service. To log in and watch for free with your TV subscription, visit InvestigationDiscoveryGo.com or download Investigation Discovery Go from the App Store (for smartphones, tablets, and Apple TV), Google Play or Roku Channel Store.
SOUTHWEST OF SALEM: THE STORY OF THE SAN ANTONIO FOUR is produced by Motto Pictures and Naked Edge Films with Deborah S. Esquenazi as director and Sam Tabet as producer. For Motto Pictures Julie Goldman and Christopher Clements are executive producers. For Naked Edge Films, Jim Butterworth and Daniel J. Chalfen are executive producers. For Investigation Discovery, Pamela Deutsch is senior executive producer, Sara Kozak is senior vice president of production, Kevin Bennett is general manager, and Henry Schleiff is Group President of Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel and Destination America.
About Deborah S. Esquenazi Deborah S. Esquenazi is a documentary filmmaker, radio producer, curator, journalist. Her work explores the intersections of mythology & justice, identity & power. She is a Rockwood JustFilms Ford Foundation Fellow, 2016; Firelight Media Lab Fellow, 2016; Artist-in-Residence at the Mexican-American Cultural Center in Austin, 2016-19; Sundance Creative Producing Fellow, 2015; Sundance Documentary Film Fellow, 2014. Her projects have received support from Humanities Texas, Sundance Institute in association with
JustFilms Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundation, Chicken & Egg Pictures, IFP, Arcus Fund, Paul Robeson Fund, and many others. Her debut feature documentary, Southwest of Salem, premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival to critical acclaim, and is a reinvestigation into the bizarre allegations waged against the ‘San Antonio Four’ during the ’Satanic Panic’ of the 1980-90’s.
About Investigation Discovery Investigation Discovery (ID) is the leading mystery-and-suspense network on television. From harrowing crimes and salacious scandals to the in-depth investigations and heart-breaking mysteries behind these “real people, real stories”, the “always revealing” network challenges our everyday understanding of culture, society and the human condition. One of our nation’s fastest growing cable networks, ID delivers the highest-quality programming to more than 85 million U.S. households and is available in both high definition (HD) and standard definition (SD). For more information, please visit InvestigationDiscovery.com , facebook.com/