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Thursday, May 05, 2016

Sean Kelly

Hot Docs 2016: Southwest of Salem

The story of the San Antonio Four is told in Southwest of Salem. Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez are four lesbian women from San Antonio, who were convicted of molesting Elizabeth's two young nieces and given sentences ranging from 15 years to 37.5. However, it becomes obvious that the case was seeped in homophobia and the leftover Satanic panic from the 1980s and 1990s. Attorneys from the Innocence Project of Texas fight to prove the innocence of the San Antonio Four and have their convictions overturned.

Southwest of Salem is a true-crime documentary, which centres on this horrifying and homophobic miscarriage of justice. Both the title of the film and name of the San Antonio fours seems to elicit comparisons to the West Memphis Three. Indeed, there are similarities between the two cases, particularly the accusations of Satanic activity by these four women. In many ways, this is a story of a modern day witch hunt, with these four lesbian women essentially being punished solely for their sexual orientation.

Southwest of Salem follows this case from its beginnings in 1997 and 1998, right until the latest developments just a few months ago. While much has been done over the last couple decades to correct some of the wrongs done towards these women, this saga is far from over and the campaign to exonerate the San Antonio Four continues. Overall, Southwest of Salem is a very compelling look at this case and here's hoping that it helps to prove the innocence of these wrongfully convicted women.

8 / 10 stars
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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).