Good Pitch Debuts in Latin America

By Richard Shpuntoff

Good Pitch held its first Latin American edition this past Saturday, August 10, within the framework of the Argentina’s International Human Rights Film Festival, DerHumALC XV in Buenos Aires.

Good Pitch was founded by Britdoc in 2008 with the aim of building support for social issue documentaries that have the potential to make concrete social impact. Think Josh Fox’s Gasland that has pushed the media to give greater coverage to the dangers of fracking, or Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War which directly led to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta changing the U.S. military’s procedures for handling sexual assault cases, and has been credited with encouraging more women in the military to come forward and report cases of abuse.

Partnering with the Sundance Documentary Institute the program expanded around Europe and into North America, and over the course of 2013-14 is working with films in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and, of course, Latin America.

For this first Latin American edition, four projects were selected that focused on a range of issues.  The visually stunning and emotionally powerful El vals de los inútiles (pictured right) by Edison Cajas tells the story of a high school student and an ex-political prisoner under the Pinochet regime who are united in the struggle for free public education in Chile, a nation that has some of the most expensive costs for education in large part due to privatization policies that were implemented during the military dictatorship. Julian Perini Pazos’ Territorios portrays three territorial conflicts in the north of Argentina where indigenous people and poor farmers are regularly evicted from their lands by industrial agricultural and mining companies, often with government support or government turning a blind eye.

Also from Argentina, Gabriel Balanovsky and Ginger Gentile’s film Mujeres con Pelotas (pictured left) takes on the controversy of young women playing the world’s most popular sport – soccer –, focusing on a group of girls from a shanty town who must struggle on a daily basis not only with society’s indifference but with the sexism and prejudice that they face from their own families and community.

Rounding out the selection was 9.70 (pictured right below) by Victoria Solano, which tells the story of Campoalegre, a small farming town in the south of Colombia that was crushed when the government sent in the military to destroy 70 tons of rice – the crop that sustains their community – because their seeds were in violation of Resolution 9.70 a law that was passed in support of the “Free Trade Act” between Colombia and the United States, but is proving detrimental to small farmers.

Unlike traditional pitching forums, this was not a case of winners and losers; the objective of Good Pitch is to build support for the films in their various stages of production, post-production and distribution. The Good Pitch team, headed by Bruni Burres of Sundance and Patricia Finneran of Britdoc, managed to pull together an impressive range of representatives from NGOs, academia, government and the film world to discuss and pledge support for these films.

The presentations were held at the Memory and Human Rights Space (el Espacio Memoria y Derechos Humanos, ex-ESMA) - housed in the former detention and torture center that was the Argentine Navy School of Mechanics – a wise and propitious choice by the organizers for stressing the need to support film projects that aim at playing a role in social change.