THE REALITY OF GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE IN BOLIVIA.
The World Health Organization reported in 2017 that worldwide 35% of women experience some form of physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime. In Bolivia, that number becomes an overwhelming 90%. Bolivia has the highest rate of domestic violence in Latin America. Over half of the women here are survivors of violence perpetrated by an intimate partner, and one in three women experience some form of abuse before the age of 18.
In 2013, Evo Morales, the current president of Bolivia, passed Law 348, known as the "Comprehensive Law to Guarantee Women a Life Free from Violence." The rate of violence has only increased since then. Though it is one of the most progressive laws to date, it fails to encompass the specificity of all forms of violence, and it does not protect all women.
NINA is a poetic study on the nature of violence and abuse. It is an intimate portrait of Bolivian woman, who share not only their experiences with violence, but also what came before and what comes after. Too often narratives of violence are left one-dimensional, but a survivor is far more than just what happened to them. The stories told in this film belong only to the people who have lived them: women that are mothers, women that are not mothers. Women that attend school carrying their babies on their backs and their toddlers in their arms. Women that never received a formal education. Trans women that spent years doing sex work, as well as protesting for their rights to their own bodies. Poor women working in the informal economy. Indigenous women carrying their mother tongues with pride. This film takes into account the intersection of identities that come with being a woman. It requires more than one narrative.
"Nina" is the word for “fire” in Quechua, one of the main indigenous languages of this country. This film is framed by the duality of fire, something that is a source of warmth and life, but also a weapon of destruction, of pain. There are systemic fires that hurt and harm and kill, as well as fires within that cannot be put out no matter the circumstance.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Why tell these stories of violence in Bolivia, when violence is happening all over the world, in your neighborhood and in mine? What will a documentary actually do? Why should I care?
I'm asking the same questions as you are. I don't have all the answers, but I can tell you that this documentary's aim is to give back the voices of those who have been systemically silenced for their entire lives. Violence is not a Bolivian problem. It is not a female problem either. It happens everywhere, and can affect anyone, no matter one's race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, or creed. However, this film will focus on violence in the context of one culture and all the micro-communities within, as well as how certain identity groups are more affected than others and why. No matter your roots, there is something you can take away from these stories. This film is told from the perspective of survivors, detailing their experiences seeking justice within a broken system, how they grew up within a cycle of violence, and their fight to end it. This film is first and foremost for them.
THE NEXT STEPS.
From mid-January of 2019 to the end of April, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing people from all walks of life, ranging from lawyers working with children that are victims of sexual abuse, to activists protesting on the streets, founders of organizations focused on violence prevention in rural communities, or making therapy and other services more economically available, and collectives seeking justice for unsolved cases of femicides. I’ve spoken with presidents of rural communities, psychologists that work with violent men, and anthropologists. I've spent countless nights with musicians that gather at a café every Wednesday to make music together.
Notes detailing research, storyboard, miscellaneous sketches, interviews, and more.
THE WOMEN OF NINA.
is a trans woman, a well-known activist for LGBTQ rights, fighting also for the dignity and safety of sex workers. She shares her story of sexual abuse, her experience as a sex worker, as well as her personal journey coming to terms with and understanding her gender identity, and how she reclaimed her body and her sexuality.
is a 29 year-old indigenous woman that recently completed her thesis in linguistics. Her first language was Quechua, and she grew up with her four sisters in a rural town called Mizque, three hours from Cochabamba. She too shares her story of sexual abuse, as well as the story of her mother, detailing the cycle of violence and how it transcended generations.
As of right now, there are five women at the heart of this film. Chantal and Angélica will be sharing their stories in front of a camera. Three will remain anonymous to ensure their safety and the safety of their children. We’ll be working closely together to animate a poetic adaptation of their stories, guided by their own voices. A large part of the budget will be dedicated to bringing their stories to life-- from paying collaborators to buying the right software, as well as travel expenses to and from Bolivia.
This coming summer, I will be going through over 30 hours of footage to transcribe and translate everything word for word. Working with local speakers will ensure that all translations from Spanish to English are completely accurate and as true as they can be. After laying out all the information, I will finalize a storyboard and begin editing and animating.
Financing a trip back to Bolivia the summer of 2020 to continue the second half of production will be essential for acquiring any footage that is still missing, and working with all the people and organizations involved face to face.
Another part of the budget goes to renting studio time and paying the composer/musicians for their work. To create the soundtrack for this documentary, I will be composing music with the guidance of trained musicians and composers back home. Warmi Pachakuti, a local Bolivian music group, composed the theme song for the documentary in mid-April. They use traditional Andean instruments such as the tarka and the siku. More on the experience working with them is detailed in this update.
REVIEW: GENERAL BREAKDOWN OF $4,000
1. Renting/buying equipment, software, studio time for soundtrack - $1,125 (28.125%)
2. Paying collaborators, mentors, crew - $1,300 (32.5%)
3. Transportation - $1,250 (31.25%)
4. Kickstarter fees - $325 (8.125%)
$4,000 is the minimum budget to ensure that all the next steps for this documentary can be completed, but regardless the process is an uphill battle. Time is always in question. If the Kickstarter raises over $4,000, money not currently allocated in this budget breakdown will go largely to paying collaborators. Money and time are directly correlated. The more money there is to work with, the less time is generally required. More animators working together, more translators reviewing footage, means the job gets done quicker. I've largely been a one-man crew-- producing, directing, editing, composing, and more, on my own. The majority of current and future collaborators are young artists-- college students that need to financially sustain themselves, balancing other jobs while also focusing on their studies. My mentor, a local Bolivian filmmaker, Massiel Cardoza, is a single-mother raising her 10 year-old daughter. She works at a local newspaper while also pursuing her passion for filmmaking and mentoring students like myself. Reaching this budget, or going over, means I can better pay the people who are dedicating their time to this documentary.
- SEPT. to DEC. / Arrival in Bolivia + Preliminary Research
- DEC. / FIRST KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN (Goal: $1,000 / Raised: $2,500)
~$2,300 after Kickstarter fees applied, allocated to:
- 30% transportation + accommodation (flights to and from La Paz, buses to rural towns + all meals during trips…etc.)
- 30% buying/renting equipment (studio time, microphones, hard drives…etc.)
- 40% paying collaborators
- JAN. - APR. / Production (& continued Research)
- MAY / SECOND KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN + Return to U.S.
- JUN. - AUG. / Transcribe & Translate, Storyboard
- SEPT. - DEC. / Collaborating with Animators & 2-D Visual Artists
- JAN. - JUN. / Continued Animation Talks + Post Production (Soundtrack, Graphics…etc.)
- JUL. - AUG. / Production Part II. - Back to Bolivia
- SEPT. - DEC. / Post Production Cont. & Finalized Cuts
Aim to bring to festivals in and around the U.S. & screenings in Bolivia by 2021.
BEHIND THE CAMERA.
My name is Athena Chu. I'm 19 years old, and I’ve been in Bolivia since September of 2018. For over half a year, I’ve been living in Tiquipaya, a town little ways from Cochabamba, the city of eternal spring. I’m here on Princeton University’s Novogratz Bridge Year program, which gave me the opportunity to travel here for nine months and pursue this personal project. This film is something I have wanted to do for a long time, before I even considered taking a year off after high school. I fell into filmmaking the summer before my senior year in high school, after borrowing a camera from my cousin and asking a few friends to join me in my backyard.
I grew up with microforms of violence all around me, and when I first started working on this documentary, it was in hopes of reaching some sort of understanding about my own traumas. Trauma is instant and healing can take generations. It is a slow process, coming to terms with my own history, and realizing that we all have not only the ability to be hurt, but also to hurt. Storytelling as a means of healing is not something new, but it is spoken of so often for a reason.
In this time, I have had the honor of sitting down with countless women on and off camera to listen to their stories, how they have come to define themselves, and redefine themselves, growing up within a culture of naturalized machismo that serves to protect the abusers rather than the abused.
What I’ve learned over these past few months, having spent days on end walking around with a camera, often on my own, is that I can’t make this film alone. I can’t do it without your support. I would love to take you with me on this journey that I’ve carved out with the immeasurable help from mentors and family and friends and even strangers along the way.
TO THOSE WHO HAVE FOLLOWED NINA FROM THE START:
I created the first Kickstarter campaign last December with no real idea of what I was getting myself into. I was 18, with more questions than answers, and little experience or resources.
To those who have been invested in this film since the start, those who have donated to and shared the first campaign, those who have spent time just talking over with me the storyboard that changes everyday, those who have been listening and those who have allowed me to listen, you are the reason I was able to do all of this in the first place.
You are the reason I was able to travel to La Paz and interview María Galindo on her radio show, an anarcha-feminist that’s stirred nation-wide attention for her work, and the founder of Mujeres Creando. You are the reason I can pay my mentor. You are the reason I can pay for all the meals of my collaborators and the subjects of this film, the hearts that make up this story, who have accompanied me on these long trips to rural communities three hours from the main city. You are the reason I have been able to listen and meet with people face to face for hours in cafés, in offices, on benches in the plaza, in trufis, and homes, in the most intimate places. You are the reason NINA can happen, the reason I have the chance to do everything I can to bring to life these stories that have remained largely invisible for far too long.
This second campaign is to ensure that the story is told right. I’m not sure there is a definitive right way to tell a story, but there is a way that is most just, that will allow for healing, that can be beautiful without being romanticized or sensationalized, that can be not only a celebration of survival, but living.
Do you believe violence is a part of human nature? Is it something we were taught? Is it something we were born with? What is machismo? And what is the opposite of machismo? Is it femininity or is it something else? What is the process of seeking justice for cases of abuse in Bolivia? Why—despite the existence of a law— has very little changed? What isn’t working? And what is?
What is your story? And how would you like for it to be told?
These are the questions at the heart of NINA.
Risks and challenges
Right now, I'm in the middle of searching for more collaborators that will have time to dedicate to this project, specifically animators and musicians/composers, as well as translators. Because many of us are college students, we'll be focusing on not only this film, but also our studies, and other jobs to keep ourselves financially afloat. Another factor is that Spanish is not my first language. This all means transcribing and translating, and post-production in general, will take more time. Regardless, this film will be finished. I am determined to do so. However, I will also be honest with you: the timeline above may change due to unforeseen circumstances. During production, for example, the storyboard changed everyday, often right after each interview, or after reading a new article, or completing another book.
Low-budget independent documentary filmmaking is filled with the unexpected, and requires one to adapt quickly to new settings. Sometimes you may go into a place (an office, a park, a home) without any idea of what it will look like, or how long you will wait for your subject, and you will have to find a way to make things work. It means long hours standing on the side of the road, no matter rain or shine, or taking the two-hour bus ride to a part of town you're not familiar with in hopes that the person you're meeting with will have 10 minutes to speak with you. Nevertheless, every moment of uncertainty is more than worth it.
Travelling back to Bolivia depends on if this campaign is successful or not. If I am not able to go back, then this documentary cannot be finished. I will find a way to make everything come together, regardless of what happens, whether that means taking on more jobs or otherwise. I refuse for these stories to remain untold or half-told. I will do everything in my power to make certain that they are told fully and truthfully, no matter how long it takes.
Whether or not you are able to donate, thank you for your attention. Thank you for believing in this project. Thank you for being here from the start. Thank you for being here now. Thank you.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (33 days)