Moving forward on its first official attempt to establish a long-term presence outside Latin America, Mexico’s Ambulante – an innovative itinerant docu fest created by Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, producer Pablo Cruz and Elena Fortes – has launched a Kickstarter crowd-sourcing campaign to back its first U.S. documentary tour in Los Angeles.
Running Sept. 21 to Oct. 4, Ambulante California will travel and tap into Los Angeles’ multi-ethnic neighborhoods to connect and activate audiences offering free docu screenings at different alternative venues, from universities to community centers, museums to parks and makeshift outdoor spaces.
One opening event wil be a screening of Eugenio Polgovsky’s 2004’“Tropico de Cancer,” about families surviving in Mexico’s San Luis Potosi desert by hunting animals. The documentary inspired Bernal and Luna to co-found Ambulante, said Luna.
The program will showcase U.S. and international documentaries, and offer a focus on Mexican docu highlights screened by Ambulante over the last decade. A full line-up will be announced in August.
Ambulante California is backed by the Ford Foundation.
Founded in 2005 as a tool to promote documentary film as a tool for social and cultural change, as with so many initiatives linked to the founders of Canana, Mexico’s highest-profile production-distribution-sales company, Ambulante mixes a social concern with a boutique culture model aimed at both direct engagement of audiences and their empowerment.
Enticements for Kickstarter campaign backers – whose names have begun to thread over the top of the Ambulante California Kickstarter website – include a Kickstarter Backers only party with Diego Luna, an invitation to Ambulante’s 10th anni celebrations in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and private screener links to docus never released digitally in the U.S..
Cultivating a sense of live-event community involvement, videos from Ambulante founders, team members and filmmaker alumni will be released throughout the 30-day campaign, as will real-time videos from the organizers, recording progress towards their first L.A. roadshow.
“Ambulante has a revolutionary potential because, unlike other events where filmmakers and film-buffs go to a festival, with Ambulante, a festival goes to people,” said Carlos Zoratti, director of “The Special Need.”
Its first L.A. fest will also drive into parts and strata of Los Angeles that, despite Hollywood, remains hugely underserved in film terms.
“Los Angeles has a vibrant social and cultural scene, but the reality is that there are numerous areas and populations often overlooked,” said Christine Davila, Ambulante California director.
She added: “This mobile platform let’s us go directly to these communities to broaden the reach of documentary cinema and develop diverse and multi-tier audiences.”
Ambulante California bowed May 1 with a preview screening of “Cesar’s Last Fast,” directed by Richard Ray Perez and Lorena Parlee, followed by a set by East L.A. band Las Cafeteras.
Not just a festival, the long-term gameplan of Ambulante California, which forms part of Ambulante Global, is to establish a non-profit base to activate documentary tours across all of the U.S.
That has already happened in Mexico. Visiting 12 states to date, Ambulante tours for three months, screening over 100 documentaries, inviting 100-plus guests from Mexico and abroad, and holding screenings in 150-plus venues. Ambulante also features workshops, talks, seminars, symposiums, docu-theater, and drive-in events. It again targets areas with limited access to film in an attempt to diversify and democratize documentary culture, offering 60% of its program free.
Outside Mexico, Ambulante has visited 17 countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Spain, the U.S., Guatemala, United Kingdom, Nicaragua, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, Tanzania, and Kosovo.