‘Vanished: The Tara Calico Story’
When Belen native and filmmaker Melinda Esquibel read a News-Bulletin article about possible new developments in the Tara Calico disappearance, she wanted to know more.
Esquibel had met Tara in marching band. Although Esquibel was a year younger, the two became friends, something Esquibel says she will never forget.
“She was so nice to me and she didn’t have to be,” Esquibel said.
After learning the sheriff knew who was responsible for Tara’s disappearance, Esquibel, owner of Mundo Maravilla Productions in California, decided that while home visiting for Christmas three years ago, she was ready for a challenge. She wanted to know what everyone else seemed to know.
“Melinda, the whole town knows who did it,” was the response Esquibel says she got during her visit. “It’s not really a secret. But the problem is getting people to come forward.
“I just felt like it was so wrong what happened,” she said. “I felt she had been forgotten and these people were going to get a way with it. It just seemed like everyone had given up and gone home.”
With determination, Esquibel started the daunting task of making a documentary about Tara in January 2010. With the blessing from Tara’s family, Esquibel began her documentary, “Vanished: The Tara Calico Story.”
After a lot of leg work, interviewing various people, including friends, family and law enforcement officials, Esquibel met RJ Mitte, who plays Walter White Jr. on the Emmy Award-winning television show “Breaking Bad.”
Mitte, who had become friends with Tara’s sister, Michele, and had heard of her disappearance, threw his support behind the film and became an executive producer.
“The project had slowed down, so I wanted to get involved,” Mitte said. “I think everyone should have their story told. People go missing every day, and their family and friends are left wondering what happened.”
Mitte said after hearing what happened to Tara and the circumstances of her disappearance, he realized she should have been found.
“No one should have their memory lost,” he said.
The two have been working closely on the documentary for the last couple of years, raising money to complete the film and shopping it to different cable networks and to other people in the industry.
“We have four interviews left, which are all on the east cost, and then we just have to finish the post production and sound,” Esquibel said.
With about $25,000 more needed for travel and production expenses, both Esquibel and Mitte are confident they can complete it soon.
“We’ve been all over the United States, taking meetings in New York and LA, and people are excited about it,” Esquibel said. “They’re just waiting for the final cut. But no one has the money.”
Along with shopping the documentary within the United States, the pair also screened the unfinished film at the Cannes Film Festival in France over the summer.
“It went very well,” Esquibel said. “We showed it to a full house and got a lot of meetings out of it.”
Mitte said it was entered in the Film Corner division, a type of category for unfinished products. He said the reason they showed the film at Cannes was more of test.
“We just wanted people to see it,” he said. “It went really well. Everyone wanted to know more about the case.”
While doing research for the documentary and talking to various people in Belen and in the county, Esquibel said she learned more about the case than she ever thought she could.
“I learned so many dirty secrets,” she said. “Growing up, I was very sheltered. I learned more about the people in Valencia County than I ever wanted to.”
“Every small town has its secrets,” Mitte said. “Belen isn’t any different from any other town. But when you get them in front of a camera, it’s like going to a priest and confessional. People want to talk. It’s like they’re repenting in their own way.”
So far, though, no one has gotten the case any closer to being resolved.
Esquibel also has created an Instagram page called “Justice 4 Tara Calico.” The page had numerous photos of hundreds of people, including friends, family, politicians, celebrities and even strangers holding up signs with the words “Justice for Tara Calico.”
Along with the documentary and Instagram page, Esquibel has a website, www.taracalico.com, dedicated to Tara, the documentary and a way to donate to the cause. The website also has a section for people to comment, even leave tips about the case.
“If anyone has information, please come forward,” Mitte pleads. “It’s time to let the secret go.”
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