SHENANDOAH — A documentary film about the community of Shenandoah will be shown for the first time in our area this weekend.
The film has a lot of folks remembering one of the toughest times the Schuylkill County town has ever seen: two teens sent to prison for the murder of an undocumented immigrant, followed by Shenandoah police officers arrested for a cover up.
The documentary by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer David Turnley is titled “Shenandoah.” It captures the 2008 murder of undocumented Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez by three of the community’s white high school football players.
It also depicts the aftermath and uproar of a working class community split by many different views on race and values.
During the trial, the youngest boy, Brian Scully, testified he admitted using racial slurs while the others, Colin Walsh, Derrick Donchak, and Brandon Piekarsky kicked Ramirez in the head even after he was unconscious.
Donchak and Piekarsky were convicted in 2010.
It sent waves through the community and caused an uproar.
We showed several people the film’s trailer in Shenandoah. People we spoke with say the crime should have never happened.
“That’s what I say. We’re all human. We’re no better than anybody else,” said Wayne Kechula.
“This is Shenandoah. It was made up of immigrants, so if he wasn’t allowed to be here then neither are they, but that’s not the point. The point is, they killed someone, a human being,” said Yosaura Santos.
The film sets out to document what happened to the coal mining town’s once-proud immigrant heritage.
It tackles the issues of race and values, and brings light to both sides of the Luis Ramirez murder case, one of the three defendants is interviewed in the film, and shows remorse for what happened.
Some folks we spoke with in Shenandoah believe the mood has changed here since the murder of Ramirez, and they hope this film will help change the minds of many others.
“It feels terrible, how we have to live still with racism and discrimination makes us feel unwanted, get looks and stares,” Santos added.
“If it’s not nipped in the bud now, the violence and crime is just going to escalate more and more,” said Chuck Jusinski.
The film will play all weekend long at the Sovereign Majestic Theater in Pottsville, beginning Saturday night at 7 p.m.
The film’s director and producer David Turnley is expected to be on hand to answer some questions about the film.