WE DID IT! With your help we're taking The Hand That Feeds to theaters and communities across the US! In addition to exceeding the Kickstarter goal this campaign resulted in tax-deductible donations and matching funds of $14,500 outside of Kickstarter. This means the theatrical release will be even bigger and better than we'd originally planned! Please don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for news about the film and related issues. And if you'd like to contribute to our audience engagement campaign after the Kickstarter deadline closes, just follow this link. THANK YOU!
We are raising funds to bring our feature documentary The Hand That Feeds to theaters and communities around the US and we need your help to do it! This Kickstarter campaign is about getting the film out there in two ways simultaneously: 1) it’s a massive push to book screenings with organizations and educational institutions, which will bring the film, usually for free, to audiences of workers, students and communities; and 2) all the funds raised will be used to put the film in theaters, where it will reach even wider audiences.
There are several reasons why we want to do this. First of all, this film truly comes alive with an audience in front of a big screen. Although it’s an indie documentary about a scrappy crew of workers and activists, viewers have commented that it feels like a “blockbuster fiction film” in pacing and structure.
Second, the story is more timely than ever. You can’t turn on the news without hearing something about immigration, economic inequality, low-wage work (including fast food), or rising social unrest. But how often do you see a feature documentary that explores these complex themes through a dramatic personal story? Stories about labor, in particular, are few and far between, and victories are rare in social movements. (Spoiler alert—the stars of The Hand That Feeds actually win!) We feel that it’s important to bring these sort of powerful, inspiring stories to wide audiences.
And finally, people want to see it. We get requests every day from people around the country who want to see the film or bring it to their city or town.
So, please watch our video and read below to learn more about what we’re doing and how you can help. Book your screening, reserve your DVD, Bluray, digital download or poster, and take a look at the other rewards for backers who join us!
WHAT IS THE HAND THAT FEEDS ABOUT?
The Hand That Feeds tells a dramatic story of ordinary people taking huge risks to become heroes. At a popular bakery café, residents of New York’s Upper East Side get bagels and coffee served with a smile 24 hours a day. But behind the scenes, undocumented immigrant workers face sub-legal wages, dangerous machinery, and abusive managers who will fire them for calling in sick. Mild-mannered sandwich maker Mahoma López has never been interested in politics, but in January 2012, he convinces a small group of his co-workers to fight back.
Risking deportation and the loss of their livelihood, the workers team up with a diverse crew of innovative young organizers and take the unusual step of forming their own independent union, launching themselves on a journey that will test the limits of their resolve. In one roller-coaster year, they must overcome a shocking betrayal and a two-month lockout. Lawyers will battle in back rooms, Occupy Wall Street protesters will take over the restaurant, and a picket line will divide the neighborhood. If they can win a contract, it will set a historic precedent for low-wage workers across the country. But whatever happens, Mahoma and his coworkers won’t be exploited again.
We met the stars of this film in early 2012 through connections with Occupy Wall Street, having spent the previous autumn documenting the movement. Throughout the process of making this film, we’ve been continually inspired by the courage and perseverance of the protagonists, and we hope you will be too.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED WITH THE FILM SO FAR?
We started filming in early 2012, and shot most of the film before any major funding came in, working around freelance schedules to catch as much vérité action as possible. In 2013, we were able to get funding from the Sundance Institute, Latino Public Broadcasting, Chicken and Egg Pictures, NYSCA, and the Cinereach Project at Sundance Institute. We expanded our team with executive producer Alex Rivera, co-producer Patricia Benabe and editor David Meneses. We worked crazy hours, bent over backwards and made a lot of personal sacrifices to finish the film quickly and maximize its timeliness. All told, we've been devoting ourselves to this project for about three years.
We're thrilled with the response The Hand that Feeds has been getting from audiences and press since launching our festival run in Spring 2014. We've picked up prizes at festivals from Alabama to Scotland, including the Audience Awards at top doc fests Full Frame and DOC NYC and Best of Fest at AFI Docs. We’ve played in the halls of government and to sold out crowds of hundreds, made large, burly men cry (along with all sorts of other people), and gotten standing ovations that can only be described as raucous and emotional.
Here are a few of the things reviewers have been saying:
"A crowd-pleaser... a well-plotted and captivating David and Goliath story." Anthony Kaufman, Indiewire
"If there's one documentary you want to put on your watchlist, it is this one." Rose Arrieta, El Tecolote
“You will never look at your deli server the same way again.” Patricia Aufderheide, Center for Media and Social Impact
In addition, with the support of the Bertha BRITDOC Connect Fund, we’ve already created a unique online platform to help audiences get involved after they see the film: Changing The Food Chain. It’s an interactive map of organizations across the country that support workers in the food chain, made with Food Chain Workers Alliance, one of several national engagement partners that we're working with.
In the next few months, The Hand That Feeds will continue to screen at festivals across North America. But to get it to the next level, we're going to need to build a movement, and this is where you come in.
WHAT'S THE PLAN NOW? WHY DIY?
We’re creating a people-powered distribution campaign to take The Hand That Feeds to theaters and communities across the country. Today’s film distribution space is very crowded. We quickly realized if we wanted this story to get the attention it needs we would have to release it ourselves. Many big commercial distributors don't think there's an audience for a documentary about undocumented immigrant workers standing up to their employers. With your help, we will prove them completely wrong!
Releasing a film theatrically is expensive, but we can keep costs low and engagement high by building up our grassroots support and employing a hybrid theatrical distribution model that combines some traditional bookings in art-house theaters with a grassroots screening tour (often free to the public) in community centers, churches and campuses around the country.
We want to have a massive screening campaign for May Day and beyond, so we’re inviting community organizations, unions, universities and other institutions and groups to book their screenings through this Kickstarter. If you represent one of these groups, you get to do a screening as a unique tool for organizing and education, and in the process help the story reach wider audiences and bring new people to the movement through the theatrical release. Plus the individual who does the pledge gets a home use copy to keep. (And in the event that the kickstarter doesn't go through, we will book the screenings anyway; we'll just need to do the billing another way.)
Of course, you don’t have to represent a group to support this campaign, and there are rewards for individuals as well.
The Film Collaborative (theatrical booking) and the 2050 Group (publicity) have a history of success in hybrid theatrical distribution, and they're already part of our team. But we need to raise this funding to book theaters, print posters, publicize, advertise, and create exhibition copies. All of this will allow us to reach audiences that aren’t already connected to organizations, and to maximize the film’s impact as part of the national conversation about wages, immigration, and low-wage workers rights.
$35,000 is the minimum amount we need to raise to make this release happen. If we manage to raise more than that, we’ll be able to make an even bigger splash and bring the film to even more locations.
All the money raised will go directly to the North American release of the film, ideally bringing it right to your town—we’ll keep track of where our pledges come from, and this will be one way we decide where to organize screenings. But this Kickstarter campaign will also take the film to the world through rewards, including DVDs, BluRays and Digital downloads of the film, which will be accessible to backers outside North America as well.
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform, so if we don’t raise our full goal within 30 days, none of the pledges will be charged and we’ll end up with nothing—and we’ll have to cancel the theatrical release. So please give what you can—and then help us spread the word!
KICKSTARTER VIDEO CREDITS: Camera by Rachel Lears; Editing by Robin Blotnick; Music by Ryan Blotnick; Cover/ thumbnail photo by Eleazar Castillo; Time-lapse photography by David Borenstein; Photos by Patricia Benabe, Ursula Liang, and Simon Luethi
Risks and challenges
Production and post-production of The Hand That Feeds is done. The film has gotten great reviews and awards from both audiences and festival juries. We’re confident that we can bring this film to theaters and communities across the country with your support. That said, since the theaters have final say in what they program, it’s very possible that we won't make it to your local movie house. But in that case, you can always team up with others in your area to host your own community screening. Plus, even if this campaign does not succeed, all the community, union and educational screenings that we book through this Kickstarter will still be booked, we'll just need to arrange with the organizers to do billing another way.
It's also possible that there may be delays in our target timeframe for the theatrical release, or that rewards fulfillment could be delayed due to contractual obligations with our broadcaster, PBS. But we've had a successful Kickstarter in the past with all the rewards delivered. And we’ve been working passionately on this project for three years and we’re determined to release it as widely as possible this year.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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