SXSW Film

Daily reviews and interviews

SXSW Film

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D: Susanne Mason

In 1960, Fred Cruz, a young Mexican-American from a dirt-poor barrio in San Antonio, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for armed robbery. Although he was an admitted junkie, petty criminal, and all-around delinquent, Cruz always maintained he was innocent of the crime he was convicted of and nothing more than a victim of a justice system that unfairly punished poor minorities. So, upon taking his place among the dank cells and cotton fields of the Texas prison system, Cruz (an eighth-grade dropout) resolved to take his fate in his own hands by studying the law and turning himself into a jailhouse lawyer. Local director Susanne Mason spent more than 10 years putting together the pieces of Cruz's life, and the result is a sympathetic yet unsentimental portrait of a man who almost single-handedly changed the way Texas prisons operate, using what one ACLU lawyer calls the "trump card" of the U.S. Constitution to expose a corrupt institution where racism, brutality, and despotism were endemic and the life of a prisoner wasn't worth much more than the paper his habeas corpus petition was written on.

Saturday, March 15, 1:30pm, ACC

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