Investigation Discovery has acquired U.S. TV premiere rights to the documentary “Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four” and will release the film theatrically on Sept. 16, Variety has learned exclusively.
The film will be released as part of ID Films and the network will present the TV premiere in October. FilmRise has acquired worldwide ancillary rights.
“Southwest of Salem,” is directed by Deborah Esquenazi. The film chronicles the persecution of Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez — four Latina lesbians wrongfully convicted of gang-raping two girls in San Antonio, Texas over 20 years ago — despite flawed medical evidence and convictions based solely on the testimony of two young children.
The film premiered in April at the Tribeca Film Festival and has screened at the Hot Docs, AFI Docs and Frameline San Francisco, where it won the Jury Prize for Best Documentary. Nick Schager said in his Tribeca review for Variety that the film “employs straightforward, intimate aesthetics to elicit intense empathy with their fight for freedom.”
“Reflecting the best of ID’s mission to inform and inspire, ‘Southwest of Salem’ provides poignant testimony to the consequences of wrongful persecution and incarceration—as well as the ultimate strength and, indeed, triumph of human spirit,” said Henry Schleiff, the group president of Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel and Destination America. “Engrossing, timely and heartbreaking, the unwavering perseverance of the San Antonio Four has resulted in their release from prison – and fans the flames of hope for their exoneration.”
The four were released from prison in 2013. Their case is currently up for review with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. A hearing date has not yet been set.
Esquenazi said the quartet were persecuted due to their sexual identities.
“Nobody should have to face this type of agonizing prejudice, and hopefully their journeys were not in vain,” she added. “Their case sits at the precipice of changing attitudes towards gay rights in America—and yet, so much more remains to be done to eradicate homophobia, misogyny, and the railroading of innocents at the hands of our justice system.”
The film is produced by Motto Pictures and Naked Edge Films with 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.
Preferred Content and Submarine Entertainment represented the filmmakers for sales in all territories.