Deborah S. Esquenazi is an Austin–based documentary filmmaker, radio producer, instructor, and journalist. Her work explores the intersections of mythology and justice, identity and power. She is a fellow of the Sundance Documentary Film program, Sundance Creative Producing Labs, Firelight Media Producers' Labs, and IFP Spotlight on Docs. This is her debut feature.
“This case is the last gasp of the Satanic ritual abuse panic.” So says Debbie Nathan, a journalist and author of Satan’s Silence
, and one of the many experts called up in the documentary Southwest of Salem
to explore the case of the San Antonio Four. In 1994, four women were accused, tried, and convicted of the heinous sexual assault of two young girls—as one newscaster puts it, “the modern version of the witchcraft trials.” Twenty years later, the four women have maintained their innocence, insisting that the accusations were entirely fabricated, and borne of homophobic prejudice and a late-’90s mania about covens, cults, and child abuse. Southwest of Salem
is a riveting and layered true crime story that explores the web of prejudices in a contentious trial and the interrelated political and personal forces that work to convict those thought guilty that perhaps trample the innocent in the process.
Read an interview with Southwest of Salem director Deborah S. Esquenazi about LGBT injustices, fighting for the "San Antonio Four," and more, at TribecaFilm.com.