Parque Central Documentary Explores Guatemala Through the Eyes of Youth

Nov 7, 2014
9:09 AM

Ricardo Gaona is a Mexican-American filmmaker who has been working on PARQUE CENTRAL, a documentary being made in Guatemala for the past year. The film is extremely close to completion. It’s a portrait of Antigua, Guatemala and the children from faraway villages in Quiche who work in the city’s central park to make ends meet.

“Our goal is to make a film that shows people as people and not as a social cause,” Ganoa told us, “and to let their stories be told in their own voices, not in our own.”

Kickstarter has given the project a STAFF PICK. The project’s campaign ends tonight, and as of this morning, the funding goal is at 76%. To help back the film, go here.

Ganoa recently wrote about the ethics of filming in the developing world for Filmmaker and other members of the team have been featured in other outlets.

One of the film’s producers also shared the group’s philosophy behind the making of the film and how it deals with the privilege angle:

One night, Ricky and I decamped to a cigar bar owned and frequented by ex-pats from America. We went with the intention of logging the footage we had accrued but somewhere around the third gin and tonic that fell by the wayside.   A group of American MBA students came into the tiny room and we started talking. They were in country for a “social justice” trip. They had visited a dump, toured a coffee plantation, and met with the president of the largest beer company in Guatemala. It wasn’t long before discussions between us became a little heated, verging on contempt. They were all adherents to a neoliberal market system and saw entrepreneurs as the answer to the country’s ills, and capitalism was slowly improving the lives of everyone. Greater access to micro-business loans would solve the problems of inequality and raise the standard of living. As a couple of lefties, this was anathema to us and neither side would concede an inch of ground. This wasn’t even getting into the history of colonialism, the United Fruit Company, the CIA backed ousting of a democratically elected socialist government, the endless marginalization and occasional attempted genocide of the indigenous population, and the three plus decade civil war that ravaged areas of the country. These are all worthy arguments to have, and there could be a great and very informative documentary to be made about the roots and causes of the problems of Guatemala; one that features talking head interviews with social and economic experts and politicians and activists on how things are and how they might change. It’s all worth discussing, but for our purposes, it doesn’t really matter. It is doubtful Domingo [one of the subjects in the film] ever considers these issues, because he’s just living his life trying to get by. It probably wouldn’t be hard to use him as a springboard to discuss these issues, but then you’re just reducing someone’s life to a data point in a case for or against something.

One day we had gone back to the hotel in the afternoon to upload footage and recharge batteries (I cannot stress enough how important is it to check that all your equipment works before you head out to location because capturing what you want is hard enough without limiting yourself from the start), and when we got back to the park at around 5 to get some footage of Domingo packing up we saw him playing a pick-up soccer game with some of the other kids who work in the park. They were using the benches as goals and a little hacky sack as a ball. Domingo, it turns out, has a natural gift for footwork and ball control. One of the kids, a 10-year-old shoeshine named Hugo who would eventually become part of the film, was employing a brilliant strategy of lying across the entire bench as a goalie and was thus virtually impenetrable. We grabbed a camera and started running around them, through them, and behind them to catch the action (it amused onlookers and a number of the kids no end to watch a couple of not-quite-in-shape 30 year olds huffing and puffing around the park with a camera trying to keep up). There was such a sense of fun in that game, and in that crucial moment you saw these kids actually be kids, and suddenly they’re not reduced to a cause. They are vibrant and alive and full of youth and, at least from what I saw in that moment, quite happy. Now we have a film.

To help back the film, go here today.