In 1978, 32-year-old Efrain Gutierrez found himself locked up in a Bexar County jail cell on trumped-up drug conspiracy charges. The Vietnam War had sent many of his friends home in coffins draped with U.S. flags. Another war—the war on drugs—was just getting started in his West San Antonio barrio. Gutierrez watched as friends and family members were shipped off to Huntsville or Leavenworth for 10-year stretches. Over the previous five years he’d recorded it all on his 16mm film camera: the pain, the struggle and the injustice of life in the barrio. And against all odds, he’d become a sensation for making gritty feature-length films that defied Hollywood stereotypes.
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