Inspired by the true events, Siren tells the story of the last moments of Josefa "Juanita" Segovia, The first woman hanged in California on July 5th, 1851. Amongst the drunken revelry on July 4th miner Fredrick Cannon attacked Josefa Segovia and her lover Jose in their home. Initially driven away Cannon returned later only to be fatally stabbed by Josefa. Rumor quickly spread as to who this Mexican American woman, once an accepted member of the community, truly was: a whore, a killer, a siren, leading men to their death? Siren shows Josefa's precious last moments as she gathers her strength to face a lynch mob, injustice and death. The papers called her "Juanita" to try to erase her but Josefa's act of self defense made her a legend.

  • Jared armijo-wardle
    Masked Man, Writer
  • Jared armijo-wardle
    Masked Man, Writer, Nighttime Strikes
  • Jared armijo-wardle
    Masked Man, Writer, Nighttime Strikes
  • Nate Riedel
    June 17th
  • Thaís Mayara
    Key Cast
    The End of the Dock, Flash back, Pursuit
  • Frank Papia
    Key Cast
  • Thom Michael Mulligan
    Key Cast
    Retribution, Paid In Full
  • Nate Riedel
    Director Of Photography
    June 17th
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Western
  • Runtime:
    7 minutes 56 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 1, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    5,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • San Diego Film Week
    San Diego
    United States
    March 2, 2018
    North American Premiere
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Jared armijo-wardle

Director, writer and producer based in San Diego, CA.

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Director Statement

There is a certain quality to the desert that you aren’t quite able to understand until you are grown. Wandering the desert as a child my hope was finding some artifact of the past, some forgotten relic of our collective mythology of the West. The romanticized and sanitized narrative of cowboys, “indians”, and Mexican people was never far from my imagination, the righteousness of rugged individuality and so called destiny of the United States. As you get older and learn the truth of land you begin to identify that quality as haunted, that the territory is filled with the lives of people that were either left behind by the inevitable march of progress or trampled under foot.

Despite the rich mix of mythology and history we learned in classes and being raised in the Arizona desert, a deeper truth about life for people of color in the West remained inconvenient and it wasn’t until going to college in California that another vision of the west became clear. Josefa Segovia is one of the countless people who lost their lives in the shadow of progress and the search for justice. Her life is a mix of history and legend but is largely overshadowed by her dubious status as the first woman hanged in California in 1851. A woman of Mexican descent living in a mining town that was a part of the new state of California and, like so many mining towns, existed without law. We know that she was the object of affection for a prominent Scottish miner who as matter of record attacked her and her boyfriend Jose, a local card dealer, in their cabin. From there the interpretations of events vary depending on the source but all suggest her own culpability in her demise. The miner returned to her cabin at dawn in July 5th, after a night of celebrating Independence Day, where he met his death with a knife to the chest. As a Mexican woman who possibly worked as a prostitute in all white mining town, she was quickly found guilty and hanged. The newspaper rarely used her name and instead diminished her life and death by calling her “Juanita”.

Most of what we know about Josefa is from her last minutes and that's where I chose to tell her story but I knew it couldn’t be conventional. We had to begin in last moment alone and capture a sacred intimacy, one of confronting your death in an unjust world. I knew from early on this had to be done without dialogue because a woman’s words in this era wouldn’t matter until her neck was in the gallows. I was fortunate to meet Thais Maya who able to create an intense mix of fear, sadness, bravery and defiance. The weight of the film rests squarely on her expressions which is a lot to ask of any actor and she impressed me by maintaining it through the whole shoot. Her strength and vulnerability allowed to us to tell Josefa’s story with compassion and insight.

For a period piece location is pivotal but we could have never imagined how beautiful, detailed and authentic the White Horse Ranch would be. North of Yucca Valley, White Horse set was the perfect rustic western stage we needed but it also provided us with costuming, props and historical knowledge that was truly invaluable. Even though I chose to frame it in 4:3 and focus with close ups on Thais, it was vital that what we see of the others be authentic to the era, from the knife she used, to the rope on the gallows. Peter and Maureen’s ranch is surreal, beautiful and truly special.

When writing Siren I always had doubts that it would ever be made or that I would find anyone interested. It would take an unlikely set of interests both period pieces and short films and through a chance meeting I meet cinematographer Nate Riedel at the screening for his film June 17th. After seeing his excellent film I couldn’t imagine anyone else with the talent, work ethic and interest in such a story. Our shared admiration for the beauty for the cinematography for True Grit and the work of Roger Deakins in general, gave me all the confidence in his eye and commitment to creating beautiful images. I can’t thank him enough.

The haunted West can be easily found but not profoundly felt unless one digs past the romance, the simple morality and the need for some virtue. It is rare to get the opportunity answer that haunting by restoring part of someone’s story that shows them in the extreme of their fear and their strength in the face of unbelievably injustice. Josefa and the countless women of color across the west deserved more from their time and even more from us now.