Cineastas de Granada


Hi All,

Thanks again to all who helped Cineastas de Granada to begin it's 2nd year of classes.

We've had a really busy time these past few months: The Introductory class is ongoing. The students are producing 2 short films, which will be completed in June.  And remember the 2 students who were pregnant? They did give birth and they will be rejoining the class soon, with their children! The Intermediate class finished their film, The Condom Squad and it was a huge success. We had an amazing screening at Casa de la Mujer in Granada, a great turnout with lots of cheers and support. I will let you know when the movie will be available on DVD.

Following this message is an article from the Nica Times, (an English language paper based in Nicaragua), about the Condom Squad project.  I know I've already sent this to some of you, so do forgive me for the redundancy.

Best regards,
Thalia Drori
Cineastas de Granada

ps. If you will be in the Bay Area next week, please come to see "Toxic Energy Little Miss Potentiality Returns" at the Parkway in Oakland, Tuesday, March 6th at 9:15 pm. I hope to see you there! TD

Condom Squad' Helps Local Girls

By Tim Rogers
Nica Times Staff |

If you're a young girl who's being pressured into unprotected sex, have no fear: The Condom Squad is just a phone call away.

Liberated, educated and hip, the squadron members are: Alex, the teenage heartthrob; Marvin, the goofball, Gloria, the psychologist; Carlota, the driver of the speedboat, and Gaby, who doesn't like to get his hair wet. Together, they form The Condom Squad, the most venerable and eclectic group of modern day problem-fixers since the A-Team.

The Condom Squad: The actors and director take five for a cast photo.

Written, produced and directed by a group of six teenage girls from Granada, The Condom Squad is the third movie effort by Cineastas de Granada, the brainchild of former U.S. film and video professor Thalia Drori. After six months of writing, rewriting and casting, the young actors, two teenagers from Managua and the rest from Granada, started filming last week on Granada's Las Isletas, in Lake Nicaragua.

Drori, who taught film and video for nine years at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, says the first two movies the group made a short film on domestic violence and another about a haunted rocking chair were well received during screenings at smaller film festivals last year in Nicaragua, London and the United States.

Her hopes for The Condom Squad are even higher.

One day I hope we are all at Sundance with our ski outfits, she said, only half joking.

The Condom Squad will be a short, 15-minute film with elements of action, comedy and drama.

Set on the islets off the coast of Granada, the film depicts the struggle of an orphaned 15-year-old girl, Betti (played by Managua actress Michelle Navarrete), who is torn between her desire to study in school, her budding romance with 18-year-old Diego Javier (played by Roberto Guilln), and her obligation to work in her aunt's restaurant.

Tourism is down due to the elections, her aunt tells her, so she must work extra hard in the restaurant. Betti wants to study, but is told she is wasting her time with school.

Diego Javier, who first notices Betti while drinking a beer with his friend in her aunt's restaurant, promises to be her salvation.

�With the resources and influence of my family, I can save you from all this garbage,� he tells her.

But Diego Javier's interest in Betti is perhaps more carnal than altruistic, and the two quickly find themselves in a romantic interlude that escalates quickly, despite Betti's uncertainty.

Luckily, Betti's younger brother sees the two sneak off together and runs to warn The Condom Squad, which arrives in time to tell Betti to consider the consequences of her actions.

Director Samantha Chevez (white shirt) goes over the script with Thalia Drori.Tim Rogers | Nica Times

The film, whose plot and characters were created by the girls of Cineastas de Granada, shows the world through a young girl's eyes: the pressure of sex, the difficulty of remaining in school, the obligations and bond of family, the worry of poverty and the influences of tourism (the bumbling red-faced father of a Gringo family waves money in front a local man and says Nicaraguans will do anything for money).

Drori insists that she didn't influence the storyline, despite being a person whose personal concerns for the health and wellbeing of her girls seem to be reflected in the movie's central message.

My role was mentor, she said. I make suggestions, like I do with any student at art school.

Drori, who recently quit her job in Minnesota to dedicate herself fulltime to the girls in Granada, said she feels a duty to give something to Nicaragua after �how much damage the United States has done here.

When she first came to Granada several years ago, she said she found a unique set of problems associated with the growing tourism industry and how it was affecting local girls through sexual tourism and prostitution. She decided she wanted to help.

Cineastas de Granada, she said, aims to give girls the opportunity to tell their story and become a part of the world of media, as well as the chance to learn technical skills, such as how to use a camera, how to use a computer, how to write a script and how to produce.

The $6,000 volunteer project, whose costs are equipment, food and transportation, is funded by a couple of small grants and Drori's personal savings.

I actually baked 40 pies and sold them for $25 each to raise money,� she said.

But, she says, the project has been worth it. The girls have learned to work toward longer-term goals without instant gratification, and many have become more self-confident to the point of becoming bossy and opinionated, Drori says with a laugh.

The star of the class is 18-year-old Samantha Chevez, an extremely intelligent and self-reliant young woman who is directing the movie as if she already had several Oscars sitting around the house.

This has been a great experience for me to grow as a person and have better human relations, she said. I always liked watching television, but I never thought I would be able to do this. Now I feel comfortable in this role and I think I can do it.

Drori, too, thinks Chevez can do it. She hopes that her experience as director of The Condom Squad will land Chevez, who used to work in the Granada market, a paid position at Managua production company Puntos de Encuentro.

Better yet, Drori says, she hopes that Cineastas de Granada will someday become its own fully functioning production company of Nicaraguan women. If it gets to that, Chevez may be a shortlist favorite to someday run the whole show herself  a challenge she already seems up for.

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