'Shenandoah' documentary coming to Pottsville
POTTSVILLE - A Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer's documentary on the 2008 beating death of Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala in Shenandoah is slated to be screened in Pottsville.
"Shenandoah: The Story of a Working Class Town and the American Dream on Trial" will be shown at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at Sovereign Majestic Theater, 209 N. Centre St., Pottsville. The film's director and producer, David C. Turnley, Michigan, will be on hand for a question-and-answer session, according to Amy S. Burkhart, executive director of Schuylkill Economic Development Corp., which manages the theater.
It's a 224-seat venue and so far about 100 tickets have sold, Burkhart said Tuesday.
Tickets are $10 each and available at the PADCO office on the second floor of 1 S. Second St., Pottsville, Burkhart said.
"It is particularly unusual to have this high of a ticket sale this far in advance. I think this screening will sell out," she said. She is considering the possibility of holding a second screening.
This will be the first time the 97-minute film has played in a theater in Schuylkill County.
'Well made,' 'balanced'
Burkhart and Steve Durkin, a member of the theater's board of directors and a city police captain, wanted to see the film prior to booking it.
"We didn't know the full content of the film and because it's about events which happened in our community and these are very dramatic events, we wanted to make sure that the film itself was weighted well and wouldn't create a bad sentiment for the community as a whole," Burkhart said.
"The film itself is well-made. I thought it was balanced," Durkin said Tuesday.
"It's a well-made film for a very difficult subject matter. It will, for anyone who sees it, provide them a catalyst to have some real meaningful conversation about the events which occurred," Burkhart said.
It was released in 2012 and has been screened at film festivals in Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles, according to Turnley.
"The film has been well-received in all of these communities. We will be screening it in the coming weeks in Arizona, North Carolina, Ann Arbor, Mich., and Fort Wayne, Ind., as well as in Pottsville," Turnley said Monday.
Turnley, 57, who was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Ind., is an associate professor at the University of Michigan, School of Art and Design.
"I began working on this film in August of 2008 and we have only completed it in the last several months," Turnley said.
According to the film's website at shenandoah-film.com, it's "an epic feature documentary about a coal mining town with a fiery immigrant heritage, once pivotal in fueling America's industrial revolution and today in decline and struggling to survive and retain its identity, soul and values - all of which were dramatically challenged when four of the town's white, star football players were charged in the beating death of an undocumented Mexican immigrant named Luis Ramirez."
Three still in prison
The incident occurred about 11:30 p.m. July 12, 2008, on West Lloyd Street near the Vine Street Park in Shenandoah.
Prosecutors said Derrick M. Donchak and Brandon J. Piekarsky were motivated by racism when they, Brian Scully and Colin J. Walsh assaulted Ramirez.
Two days after the assault, Ramirez died, and his death was ruled homicide from blunt force trauma.
Scully was charged as a juvenile. His case was handled by Schuylkill County juvenile authorities and he was placed on probation and house arrest until he turned 21 in 2012.
In April 2009, Walsh pleaded guilty to punching Ramirez. In April 2011, U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo ordered Walsh to serve four years and seven months in federal prison. Walsh is serving his term at FCI/Elkton in Ohio, according to the online inmate locator for Federal Bureau of Prisons.
In February 2011, Caputo sentenced Donchak and Piekarsky to each serve nine years in a federal correctional institution. Donchak is serving his sentence at FCI/Otisville, New York, while Piekarsky is serving his at FCI/Beckley, West Virginia, according to the inmate locator.
Police served time
Meanwhile, two former Shenandoah police officers were convicted of hindering the FBI's investigation.
Shenandoah police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer and Officer Jason Hayes were charged as part of an alleged coverup in the case. Hayes was acquitted of all charges.
In June 2011, Caputo sentenced Nestor to serve 13 months in prison, followed by two years on supervised release. Nestor was released from prison in May 2012, according to the inmate locator.
Moyer was sentenced to three months in prison, followed by one year on supervised release. Moyer was released from prison in September 2011, according to the inmate locator.
"I am hopeful that this portrait of Shenandoah at this time of history is appreciated for its intent of allowing all of us to think about our values as a society with compassion and open hearts. I am happy that the people in Schuylkill County will have a chance to see the film, and am very appreciative of the graciousness of the people of Shenandoah who let me into their lives," Turnley said.