Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (2016) - Rotten Tomatoes

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four2016

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (2016)

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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. The film begins its journey inside a Texas prison, after these women have spent nearly a decade behind bars. They were 19 and 20 years at the time that allegations surfaced. Using the women's home video footage from 21 years ago combined with recent verité footage and interviews, the film explores their personal narratives and their search for exculpatory evidence to help their losing criminal trials. 15 years into their journey, director Deborah S. Esquenazi captures an on-camera recantation by one of the initial outcry victims, now 25 years old although 7 at the time of the investigation. This brings the filmmaker into the role of investigator along with attorneys at the Innocence Project, who are just beginning their quest for truth in this case. Together with attorneys, the film culminates with the women being released from prison to await their searing new exoneration hearings in San Antonio. Helming new legislation, this is the first case in U.S. history that allows wrongfully convicted innocents to challenge convictions based on 'Junk Science', or debunked forensics. As lesbian low income women of color, these women hold intersecting identities that make them the most vulnerable to incarceration and juror bias. This under-reported injustice is actually widespread: Latina women represent one of the growing populations heading into prison. In addition, most reported exonerations and wrongful convictions focus solely on men and cases involving women, let alone lesbian women of color are largely under reported. The film unravels the interplay of mythology, homophobia, and prosecutorial fervor that led to their indictment.

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Critic Reviews for Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (4)

Tells a miscarriage of justice tale that practically bursts with societal issues to address: homophobia, socioeconomic inequality, child abuse, trial misconduct, tabloid hysteria, junk science and innocence advocacy.

September 29, 2016 | Full Review…

A powerful act of advocacy.

September 16, 2016 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

The documentary persuasively argues that the charges were wildly implausible, and that homophobia against the women, who had been in lesbian relationships, contributed to the convictions.

September 15, 2016 | Full Review…

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four compellingly tells a maddening true story that touches on many of America's most enduring hypocrisies.

September 14, 2016 | Full Review…

Without the sloppy presentation of the confounding facts at the end of the film, it would have been a more impactful film. But what it does succeed at is bringing attention to a case that should never really be forgotten.

March 22, 2017 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

Bringing together interviews with the main players, court transcripts and archive footage from the time, Southwest Of Salem is detailed and comprehensive but never drags. It's difficult viewing for all the right reasons.

November 30, 2016 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

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