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How to Nail an Oscar Nomination

Paco de Onis and Pamela YatesPamela Yates and Paco de Onis, filmmakers for over 25 years and keynote speakers at the 2010 Making Your Media Matter (MYMM) conference, are taking a grassroots approach to fundraising for an Oscar nomination through Kickstarter.

Normally their production company, Skylight Pictures, doesn't contend for Oscar consideration because it specializes in human rights and the quest for justice with strategically designed issue campaigns requiring independent distribution. Oscar consideration typically involves giving up commercial rights to the film to big commercial distributers who can afford to pay for the nomination campaign.

Yates and de Onis feel differently about their latest film, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, which premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. 26 years ago, Pamela Yates filmed the war in Guatemala, a story that became When the Mountains Tremble, featuring Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu, who was only 22 at the time. In 1982, the military dictator Gen. Benedicto Lucas Garcia undertook a scorched earth campaign that claimed the lives of 200,000 Guatemalens with an additional 43,000 missing.

26 years later, the General was indicted for genocide. The prosecution used When the Mountains Tremble and its unused footage as forensic evidence--Yates's grain of sand that helped to nail a dictator. Granito is about the making of the original film, the genocide and the prosecution.


This wouldn't be the first time they've used film to nail a dictator. It also isn't the first time that Yates and de Onis are taking on the "David and Goliath journey" of independent distribution. Independent distribution gives these filmmakers the flexibility to determine the use of the film, in some cases giving it away.

Speaking at MYMM in 2010, the filmmakers emphasized that you can't undertake outreach as just one person, you have to have support from various communities for whom the film serves as an advocacy tool. In the case of a previous film, State of Fear, used to nail the former Peruvian authoritarian Alberto Fujimori, despite giving away the film, or perhaps because of it, it became their best-selling DVD. State of Fear was also translated into Quechua to reach more minority audiences and advocacy groups.

Yet another dictator nailed with the help of film was Sudanese President Omar al Bashir. The Reckoning was used in a grassroots campaign to bring al Bashir to prosecution through the International Criminal Court.

The Kickstarter campaign takes a lesson from the message of Grantito itself, "each of us have our tiny grain of sand, our granito, to add to the cause." Yates and de Onis are running the campaign in hopes that supporters will collectively boost Granito into the Oscar running. Yates says she hopes to reach tens and thousands of people, through the campaign and the film, who can think about what their grains of sand will be.

As of March 10, 165 backers have contributed their grains of sand. The Granito campaign has 13 days left to go and has raised $23,264 of the $35,000 goal. Visit Kickstarter to contribute your grain of sand to support social justice film and explore other campaigns.