Betty Bastidas is from Ibarra, 30 minutes away from La Chota Valley in Ecuador. She remembers seeing La Chota from a highway that passes through it. Those images stayed with her and she wondered about the people that lived there (mostly Afro-Ecuadorians). She saw them and remembers thinking that they were there but they lived in isolation.
Fast forward many years later and soccer players put La Chota on the world stage thanks to the Ecuadorian National team’s participation in the FIFA World Cup. Betty says it was inspiring to see soccer players put a light on this community and that brought her back to what she had seen many years before.
Betty also found it inspiring that soccer can unite a country. Ecuadorians all over the world are united by the National team, regardless of class or race. So Betty had an idea: to use soccer as a lens into poverty, class and race. “It doesn’t matter where you are from, the love of soccer unites people. It’s a language that is global [that everyone understands].”
The idea to tell the story of La Chota’s soccer players is what sparked Betty’s journey into film making. Betty shares that she didn’t have any idea what it would take to make a film. As a matter of fact, first, she had the idea, and after she realized what making a documentary would take, she enrolled in the MFA program at UC Berkeley. (Prior to that Betty had attended NYU to study marketing, and had later on gone into photography).
Making the documentary was no easy feat, Betty admits “I had no idea what it would take.” It took Betty seven years to complete, from idea to the final product, DreamTown.
When asked what the biggest challenge she faced was Betty said without a doubt, “Funding” explaining that “Finding funders that saw this as a worthy story.” It takes over $125,000 to make a documentary; Betty raised 75,000 through two Kickstarter campaigns (one in 2011 and another in 2013) and also received funding through other organizations: The National Association for Latino Arts and Culture, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, Women Making Movies, NY Women in Film and Television and El Consejo Nacional de Cine del Ecuador (National Council of Cinema of Ecuador).
Betty takes her job as a film maker seriously and realizes that she is privileged:
It’s my job as filmmaker to shed light on underrepresented communities. I feel privileged to do what I do. It’s a privilege to tell this story. I’m happy the world gets to see this story and be moved and inspired by it.
Betty realizes that as much as soccer unites the country, there is systemic racism that needs to be dealt with. The Afro-Ecuadorian community of La Chota live in poor conditions and in isolation, though that is slowly changing. Soccer has brought respect and recognition to Afro-Ecuadorians in Ecuador. She hope the documentary will help shed light on the poor conditions and spark a conversation: “We need to have a conversation about race and class. I hope that through the characters and intimacy of the film people can see that we all feel the same, we all care about he same things, we all have dreams.”
Dreamtown is the inspiring story of three young soccer players who chase success in the face of extraordinary challenges. Entwined with their athletic dreams are the hopes of all Afro-Ecuadorians for whom soccer is more than a sport–it’s a means to attain recognition and respect.
DreamTown premiered in Ecuador recently (May 26th), at the Festival EDOC (Encuentros del Otro Cine-Festival Internacional del Cine Documental) and will be part of the Ecuadorian Film Festival here in NYC.
Leave a comment below for a chance to win 2 tickets to see the premiere of DreamTown in Manhattan on June 3rd, followed by a Q&A with Betty and some of the players!