Muerte en Leon is the story of four women who are the main characters in a murder case in a provincial Spanish city.
In May 2014 Isabel Carrasco, the president of the provincial government of Leon, was murdered in broad daylight in the centre of Leon. Two women were quickly arrested, a mother and a daughter, Montserrat Gonzalez and Triana Martínez. The following day a local policewoman, Raquel Gago, hands in the murder weapon and she too is arrested. All three women are tried and found guilty, of various degrees of responsibility, of murdering Isabel Carrasco.
Muerte en Leon is a non-fiction series, directed by Justin Webster, about the murder of Isabel Carrasco – the genre allows for a deep and real narrative to be developed over four episodes of one hour. The story is told from the point of view of the four women, with all the rigour of journalism alongside the skills of cinematography. Behind the brutal murder and trial lie power struggles, hatred, ambition, favouritism, fear, lies and the desire to discover the truth.
The series was made with the participation of Movistar+ in Spain. It premiered on 7th December on Movistar Estrenos.
I wanted to do something about the brutal murder of Isabel Carrasco as soon as I heard the news, for one simple reason: I didn’t understand it at all. Months after, with a lot more information, I continued to understand very little. A 55-year-old mother, a housewife wife with no history of violence, killed another woman in broad daylight with horrific coldness. The murdered woman was a controversial politician but the motive was personal.
From my experience of other equally ambiguous topics, the only way to resolve this feeling of not understanding, when there’s lots of speculation and prejudice, is to dedicate a lot of time and effort to telling the story well from beginning to end. It is impossible to know – and avoid prejudice about – what the story definitely means before filming it. So this is precisely what makes this type of production, which we call non-fiction series, particularly demanding (and difficult to finance – so thank you Movistar+ for your assistance). The series could also be called an episodic documentary. The word non-fiction only tries to define it a little more, as a story, or a narrative told through the characters – rather than as an essay or just an informative film.
The first step of pre-production was to visit Leon without cameras. I went with Enric Bach, producer and co-script writer, to start talks with the different parties and to set in motion the possibility of filming the trial. My first impression in Leon confirmed the disconcerting sensation that no one understood anything: hatred towards the murdered woman was obvious, and for me, shocking. Equally obvious was the certainty of almost everyone in Leon that the three accused women would be found guilty. When I explained the project, someone joked that it was going to be a short documentary because there was little mystery surrounding the case. But what was even more common was the assertion that no one was ever going to know the truth about what happened.
All documentaries, all non-fiction, are essentially failed attempts to discover the truth. If this creates a new genre, of series like this one, that are successful with the public, then I believe it’s because of the honest effort to get closer to the truth rather than just aiming to gain exclusives. This series has content that has not been seen or heard before. However, it all forms part of a complex and fascinating narrative – that I hope, with the help of journalism and film, captures and helps people to understand the story.