We’re just over half way through our very first Kickstarter campaign for feature-length documentary Nae Pasaran. The film began life as a Bridging the Gap in 2013, directed by Felipe Bustos Sierra and screened to great acclaim in festivals worldwide. Ultimately, it opened the doors to a much bigger story, one that takes us from Scotland to Chile and back again.
It comes with some surprise that we haven't run our own crowd-funding campaign in the past. We've written extensively about it on our blog, we've supported several and we recognise that for some projects, it's become an essential way for filmmakers to not only raise funding, but perhaps more importantly, to engage with their audiences early on. Here's how it came about for us:
Shorts being turned into features is less frequent than you might think but this story has an endless capacity to keep giving. The tale of the Scottish workers defying Pinochet is courageous and playfully told, and the relevance of their action couldn't be more poignant today. It quickly became clear that this story is a piece of the bigger picture that makes up Chile's recent history, a history that sent out ripples internationally and is still fresh in people's mind.
Over the last two years, we've been researching, writing and thinking in order to turn this into a fully developed feature. This is SDI's second collaboration with a Bridging the Gap alumni, following Future My Love, directed by Maja Borg. It's also a first feature for Felipe and his Scottish company, Debasers Filums and will be my first feature as a producer.
The film tells the tale of three factory workers from East Kilbride who successfully carried out the longest-running act of solidarity against Pinochet by grounding half of Chile's airforce, following the 1973 Coup d’etat. When filmmaker Felipe brings them back together again 40 years after the event to make the short, memories are awakened and new facts are revealed. (You can read in more detail about the full story on our kickstarter page.)
We launched our campaign on Friday 27th of March. This is almost 40 years to the day that the decision was first made to boycott carrying out maintenance on Chile's warplane engines. On the verge of becoming history's forgotten heroes, the short brought it all out in the open again and Bob Fulton, Robert Somerville and John Keenan, the three now-retired workers were awarded the highest honour given to foreign civilians from the Government of Chile for their action. The Chilean ambassador bestowed upon them the medal of Merit of the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins, to the rank of Commander. They received their medals in front of an audience of over 150 people in the prestigious Glasgow City Chambers in an incredibly moving ceremony, not least because it was a complete surprise to the three men.
This moment will have an important place in the timeline of our feature film. It's the closure that our three protagonists had been denied all these years. But we still have so much to reveal, hopefully this kickstarter campaign will help us finish our research and development and get us into production! Over to Felipe now to tell you a little bit more about his motivation behind the film:
I grew up in Belgium, son of a Chilean exile. The story of the “Chilean engines in Scotland” was one of the anecdotes told through word-of-mouth by the Chilean communities in exile. In 2012, I found Robert Somerville, one of the seven members of the committee who had immediately supported Bob Fulton. He was skeptical at first. I told him I wasn’t interested in creating new myths, the truth might not be triumphant but I would search for it as far as I could. He introduced me to John Keenan, the youngest man on the committee, a sprightly 75, and John took me to Bob Fulton, the “elder”, as they jokingly referred to him.
"Here was a man with a piece of a puzzle he’d come to believe was meaningless."
At 92, Bob Fulton is one of the most colourful human beings I’ve had the chance to meet. Gracious and curious, conversation and memories pour out of him. While he had transformed some of his recollections over the years, they always reflected his approach to life and people - full of compassion, gentle and open-minded. He was very open from the start, baffled that someone was still looking for these engines, and doubtful yet keen to find out whatever had happened to them.
We made a short film together, also called Nae Pasaran, the summation of my investigation then. They learned on camera what had become of the engines. It was bittersweet, but with many questions still unanswered, their curiosity was awakened again and there was hope we could find out much more.When I told him what I knew then, which is a fraction of what I know now, he broke down. Here was a man with a piece of a puzzle he’d come to believe was meaningless.
In June 2014, the short film finally reached Chile. I introduced the film and invited anyone interested to come and leave a message to our camera after the screening. It would all be relayed back to the guys in Scotland. Half the audience queued up for over an hour to leave their impression. It was a moving moment for all of us, the first evidence in many years that this was more than an anecdote, that it had mattered; thousands had been inspired, hope had existed in the bleakest of times. Lives had been saved. It was the first step towards the recognition the men received in Glasgow last month.
"One of the most emotional scenes I had the chance to witness."
All this new access and information painted a much broader picture. The short film is no longer enough to tell their story. There are more voices to be heard, more stories to tell and an ending beyond anything I could have ever imagined - and I’m not just talking about the medal ceremony, which was one of the most emotional scenes I had the chance to witness.
Our Kickstarter campaign to fund the feature film is well on its way. It’s also brought new stories as it reaches people in Chile. We have an unlikely opportunity with this story: a truly joyful tale within the tragedy that was the Chilean coup. It’s connecting with new people and providing a new point of entry for many.
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing adventure and this film is a labour of love, we hope one you'll feel worthy of backing. How often do you get a chance to support something with real life positive consequences? Nae Pasaran is one of those stories and it's as relevant today as it was 40 years ago.
Felipe Bustos Sierra