Netflix's greatest gift to audiences is to bring movies and serials in foreign languages to the Indian audience. The true crime documentary Three Deaths of Marisela Escobedo aired on October 14 deals with a Mexican mother's crusade in Chihuahua city to send her teenage daughter Ruby Frayre's killer to prison.
Latin American series revolve mainly around ground realities: drugs, violence, human trafficking, government and judicial corruption and exploitation of women. An alarming number of women are killed in Mexico every day. In spite of the coronavirus, the toll exceeded 350 till March.
Story: Ruby moves out of her parents’ home to live with her boyfriend, Sergio Rafael Barraza Bocanegra, which affects her relationship with her mother, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz.
Then she goes missing and her body is found in a dumpster a year after. Marisela accuses Sergio. He is arrested and confesses but is acquitted by a corrupt judge. Marisela's demonstrations seeking justice for Ruby catch global attention, but don’t save her life.
She is shot by masked men in front of the Governor’s office during a peaceful vigil protesting femicide. Sergio’s acquittal is overturned and he is sentenced for murder. He goes on the lam. Meanwhile, the police arrest Juarez drug cartel enforcer Jose Enrique Jimenez Zavala for Marisela’s murder.
While the shocking apathy and inefficacy of the police are well documented in this film, the mere 90-minute format condenses details leaving the viewer wanting more. Marisela and her family go through hell after Sergio’s sentencing and acquittal, but their pain is dealt in a matter-of-fact way.
While the makers convey the big picture, the smaller details and nuances are relegated to the background. The end is a punch to the gut. Here is a woman who fought the good fight, without anything good ever happening to her. The film is a reminder that when backed into a corner, ordinary people are capable of surprising feats of resilience.
In the end, you understand why the documentary is titled The Three Deaths of Marisela Escobedo. There might have been three deaths for sure, but there was just one perpetrator; it’s not an individual, but a collective.
This insightful commentary, as poignant as a feature film, is an important piece of work that points out how unsafe the world can be for a woman. The details may not all be there to make it a work of great art, but it’s good enough to be called important.