Latina documentary filmmaker Betty Bastidas has a passion for telling stories of perseverance in the face of adversity. As an immigrant herself, first arriving in the United States at nine years old, Betty uses her personal experiences with the Latino-American identity to shed light on common, yet often overlooked stories of immigrant resilience. Most recently, her short documentary Can’t Hold Me Back followed Fernando Parraz Jr. as he became the first person in his family to earn a high school diploma. It was chosen by PBS for their 2013 Online Film Festival and was also part of a nationwide media initiative to address the U.S. high school drop out crisis. With the help of her company, Maracuya Productions, Betty is determined to share the underdog’s story.
Her latest venture takes us to El Chota Valley, Ecuador. A small village nestled high in the Andes, El Chota is home to a community of Afro-Ecuadorians. The descendants of slaves brought from Africa to work on plantations and gold mines, the people of El Chota have struggled with decades of systemic poverty and marginalization. But they have a secret weapon against their socio-economic struggles: Soccer.
Despite only comprising 5% of the country’s population, Afro-Ecuadorians have played a key role in catapulting Ecuador to global soccer prominence – it was players from El Chota who led Ecuador’s national team to World Cup qualification in 2002 and 2006. Bastidas’ DreamTown throws this minority into the limelight, introducing us to Anibal Chala, Carlos Maldolano and Ulises de la Cruz, El Chota residents who don’t just see soccer as a passion, but also as a necessity to catapult their families and communities out of poverty. But the road to soccer success is a difficult one, and Bastidas’ film highlights the pitfalls most budding players face as they struggle to make it big. While some, like Ulises de La Cruz, make it to Ecuador’s national team and even Manchester United, others make tremendous sacrifices only to see their dreams fall by the wayside. Still others discover that success doesn’t quite look like what they imagined, as their goals clash with those of pro team management looking to maximize profits.
The film gives people a glimpse into this unknown part of the world, but it is still a work in progress. The story is set. The material has been documented. But it’s up to you to help give DreamTown the exposure it deserves. Although not complete, Dreamtown has already garnered support from HBO, the National Association of Latino Arts & Culture, and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers. DreamTown is not just a film, but a a tool for education, social awareness around class, poverty and the often over looked afro-latino community.
Check out their teaser below and the KickStarter Campaign HERE.