Parque Central is a feature length documentary centered on the youths who work in the titular park in Antigua, Guatemala. In one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, these children shine shoes, run ice cream carts, and sell candies, cigarettes, scarves, and a variety of other items to locals and visitors in an attempt to make ends meet and, oftentimes, provide for their families. Using the park as a central hub, we will push out to the rest of the city and its surrounding villages exploring the day-to-day connections between the place and its people with an exhilarating and unique cinematic approach.
Parque Central will present a city symphony that puts the day-in-the-life of the children in the context of their economic and cultural surroundings. Stylistically, Parque Central will deviate from more conventional documentaries in the hope of creating something both experiential and observational; it is a style we are calling “experimental ethnography”. The aesthetic will provide a fuller understanding – and celebration – of the lives and the city on display. Our goal is to avoid the pitfalls of the “social issue” film that sees people reduced to a talking point or a cause. We humbly aim to be your guide.
Antigua, Guatemala was founded in 1543 by the Spanish as the capital of their colony of Guatemala before it was abandoned due to earthquakes in the 1770s. It is relatively small but has a bustling tourist business due to the colonial architecture, numerous ruins, and its location in a valley in the highlands that includes three volcanoes. It is currently a UNESCO heritage site. Due to the tourist trade, it attracts migrant workers, often of Mayan descent, from the poorer areas of the country to work and sell goods and services in the hopes of making ends meet.
Though it is small in size it is rich in history. It is a city of juxtapositions: The emblem of colonial transformation that traffics in indigenous culture for trade, the tourists seeing the sights and frequenting the bars and the local population dependent on their custom to maintain their livelihoods, the walled off villas and coffee plantations just a few miles from poverty stricken neighborhoods. Nestled in a valley surrounded by hills and volcanoes, the flat, grid structure of the city provides a visual template for highlighting the connections between these seemingly disparate worlds.
Antigua is an easy place to fall in love with at first sight, as I did within seconds of entering the city limits. I knew in an instant I had to make a film here.
Parque Central will follow several of the children who work in the park, from their homes and daily routines to their workday and what they do for enjoyment in their free time. They have aspirations like all adolescents, but circumstances require they work every day to support themselves and their families. Through their eyes we get a ground level perspective on how the city operates and just what it takes to live day to day, all the while exploring the many facets of their own lives.
As the project has developed the influx of children from Guatemala and other Central American countries into the US has become a political flashpoint, but we’re not interested in reducing people to a cause or a talking point. This film is about lives being lived and the environment that informs them.
Domingo – Originally from Quiché, he lived with his family in Antigua for 7 years before they returned and he stayed to run the family ice cream cart. He is 14 years old.
Miguel and Hugo – Brothers originally from Quiché, 18 and 10 respectively, they live alone in Antigua. Miguel has been shining shoes for 10 years while his younger brother Hugo just started this year.
Yesenia – Around 13 years old, and also from Quiché, she sells scarves and bracelets in the park. Lives with family members in a nearby town.
Ricardo Gaona (Director / Producer) - Los Angeles-based film school graduate who made a short film that played in the Cannes Short Film Corner. Worked in the film industry in various capacities before deciding to abandon the industry and work in catering to make films independently and obsessively aim for Criterion completism. Dedicated to making films about people and places often forgotten about in the cinematic universe. Likes the pier, hates the beach. Violinist and punk enthusiast, whilst at 33 years old is openly a Taylor Swift fan. You can find him on Twitter at @spinenumber408.
Sean Gillane (Cinematographer / Editor) - A San Francisco-based filmmaker acting as Cinematographer and Editor for PARQUE CENTRAL. This is his second documentary as a cinematographer shooting on foreign soil. Katherine Bruens's CORNER STORE saw him shooting in the West Bank of Palestine and went on to win Best Documentary at SF IndieFest and play BigSky Film Festival and Starz Denver Film Festival among others. It is now available on Hulu.
As an editor, Sean has cut three feature narratives in the last three years, including Dave Boyle's MAN FROM RENO (Best Narrative Los Angeles Film Festival 2014, Official Selection Fantastic Fest 2014), his own CXL (San Francisco Film Society's Cinema by the Bay Festival), and is currently finishing Jennifer Phang's ADVANTAGEOUS, starring Jacqueline Kim, Jennifer Ehle, James Urbaniak, and Ken Jeong. You can find him on Twitter at @sgillane.
Santiago Schmidt (Local Producer) - Our local producer and invaluable guide, he was born in Antigua Guatemala, where he spent most of his childhood before living abroad and studying in the US before returning to his hometown. Works in a variety of industries and has worked as a line producer and scout for a variety of commercial productions in and around Guatemala.
Matthew Henderson (Producer) - A producer on the film, he is a film school dropout and history graduate working in the service industry in the Washington D.C. metro area. You can find him on Twitter at @lokar20.
Why We Need Your Help
Filmmaking is expensive, and self-financing can only take us so far (there are, it turns out, only so many doubles you can work in a week and only so many freelance gigs on offer). We have so far completed the first half of the shoot, but we need funds to go back to finish expanding the story visually. From there we will begin the post-production process that will involve sound mixing, sound design, scoring, and coloring.
Risks and challenges
Shooting in any foreign country can be tricky, especially one with a history of violence and political turmoil such as Guatemala. Weather and natural phenomena can also complicate things, especially on a tight budget. Over half the filming is completed, however, and the schedule for the final shoot is well planned to take into account any unforeseen events.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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