“90 Minutes Later” is the working title of the documentary independent filmmaker Cyndy Fujikawa has been working on about the August 30, 2018 death of actress Vanessa Marquez, who was shot to death by South Pasadena police 90 minutes after they arrived at her Fremont Avenue apartment for a so-called “wellness check.”
“At its core, it is a civil and human rights piece,” says Los Angeles-based Fujikawa, known for her work on Killers (2010), Haywire (2011), and Odd Thomas (2013). Marquez’s colleagues, friends, and family still have many unanswered questions about the shooting, concerning which very little official information has been released. “We want closure, and there is not any to be had. We would like justice for Vanessa” and to know who is responsible for her death.
The film is being told through the eyes of friends of Marquez, especially the actors connected with the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, in which Marquez had her break-out role. Already about 50 hours of interviews with about 20 people have been recorded on ultra-high resolution 4K video, Fujikawa disclosed.
These are the people who got together for a collective memorial for Marquez at the LA Theatre Center, “an extended family of sorts”, starting with Daniel Vasquez, the South Pasadenan News reporter who broke the story of Marquez’s killing by making contact with many of the witnesses at the scene in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.
“We’ve also been trying to collect the stories of all the other people affected [by the shooting who can offer] an extra layer. We welcome hearing from anyone with a story to tell,” she said, acknowledging that some prospective interviewees have declined to speak or to be on-camera.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has yet to issue the officer-involved shooting report that will determine whether the shooting was lawful. Body camera footage from the officers involved also has yet to be released, a fact that Marquez’s supporters find especially galling.
As part of the project, Fujikawa engaged a group of law students at the University of California at Irvine’s Civil Rights Litigation Project, who on December 18 came to the South Pasadena City Council to press their case for release of public records associated with the case. The city has rejected at least a half dozen separate Public Record Act requests for the footage and other material, saying it is barred pending issuance of Lacey’s report. That battle may not be over, Fujikawa hinted.
The presentation to the City Council, led by UCI law student Mackenzie Anderson, argued that South Pasadena would be well within its legal discretion to release both the body cam footage and the officers’ names. “We did hear back from the City and it was as if we had never been at the meeting that day,” Fujikawa said. “They continue to hide behind the open investigation excuse” and to steamroll over various self-imposed deadlines for related responses. “We have to prod them for any response.”
“We are trying to cut a small sequence [around the December 18 session]”, Fujikawa said, just as she developed a sequence around the group’s efforts to have Marquez’s passing acknowledged during the memorial section of the Oscars.
Although this is the only film project Fujikawa is currently working on, she is also a playwright and has been working on a project with the Company of Angels about gun violence in the schools. It’s going to be part of an evening of short plays running three weekends this spring at COA’s San Pablo St. center.
Asked about her interest in the Marquez incident, Fujikawa paused at some length. Her husband, Dennis Stuart Murphy, a veteran producer and unit production manager who worked on films such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Powder, and TV series like ER and The Bridge, died of a brain hemorrhage a few months before the Marquez shooting.
Having just put together a memorial for Murphy, Fujikawa wound up being asked to help the Stand and Deliver extended family of Marquez supporters with the memorial they put together at the LA Theatre, though Fujikawa insists her only real assistance was in helping them with scheduling.
“When something like a that happens to you, it puts you in a very raw space,” she said. “And I just had enormous empathy for what those people were going through in that room,” especially after one of the actors told her how closely he intended to follow the Marquez investigation. That’s when Fujikawa realized how important it would be to document the Marquez supporters’ struggle to find closure for them, and justice for Marquez.
People interested in the Marquez documentary can stay informed by checking the Twitter handle @90minutes_later.