I worked with Kimberly Bautista as a result of her winning a full scholarship from the National Association of Latino Independent Producers (NALIP) mentorship program. Between our first meeting to do story development and the second to work on the story structure, she was assaulted while filming in Guatemala. Her determination to overcome those terrible events left me and many others in complete awe and admiration. She not only finished a film that made a difference, but she also managed to implement women’s safety hotlines across Central America.

Justice for My Sister
Producer/Director: Kimberly Bautista
Length: 69 min.
URL: http://www.justiceformysister.com

Film Vitals

Justice For My Sister follows one woman’s journey through the Guatemalan justice system as she struggles to hold her sister’s killer accountable. In the end, it was one of the few cases of domestic-violence murder that has resulted in a conviction in the past decade.

Select Festivals, Screenings & Awards:

  • United Nations Human Rights Council Session 23 – Panel on Violence Against Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean, Geneva, Switzerland, 2013
  • Official Selection at 2013 International Public Television Conference, El Salvador
  • Movies That Matter Film Festival, Holland, March 2013
  • University of San Francisco Human Rights Film Festival, April 2013
  • Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, April 2013
  • Cine Las Americas Festival, Austin, Texas, April 2013
  • Women Make Waves Film Festival, Taiwan, October 2012
  • Puerto Rico International Film Festival, Vieques Island, December 2012
  • Special Screening and Panel hosted by Los Angeles Police Department and Central American Consulates, with Panelists Kate Del Castillo (actress and human rights advocate) and National Day Laborer Organizing Network
  • San Francisco International Latino Film Festival, September 2012
  • Estela Award “Rising Star” Finalist (Documentary), NALIP, 2013
  • Inaugural Young Alumni Achievement Award for Excellence in Media and Social Justice in Guatemala, Pitzer College, 2013
  • Silver Butterfly—Camera Justitia Award, Movies That Matter Film Festival, The Hague, Holland, 2013
  • Winner of the 2012 HBO/NALIP Documentary Filmmaker Award
  • 2012 Cornelian Award “Alumna of the Year” from Mayfield Senior School, best exemplifies “Actions Not Words”
  • First Place Winner, Cuban Hat Transmedia Pitch, Sunny Side of the Doc, La Rochelle, France, 2012
  • Latino Artist Mentorship, National Association of Latino Independent Producers 2010-2011

Shooting Location:

  • Guatemala

Production Timeline:

  • 5 years total. Production began in August 2007.
  • 1 year of research at University of California, Santa Cruz, followed by 3 months in the field.
  • Four production trips: 4 weeks of production with two trips (while editing simultaneously), a 2-month trip one year later, then a final 2-week production trip.
  • Editing started in April 2010, followed by 2 months of solid editing.
  • 6 months of rough-cut screenings and post-production.

Money Talk:

  • Thesis grants of $20,000, $5,000 and $500 to do work in the arts.
  • $1,500 from independent donors.
  • $5,000 from a grad school foundation after graduation.
  • $5,300 raised on Kickstarter in October 2010.
  • $5,000 from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala in early 2011.
  • $10,000 from Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) for outreach in 2012.
  • $10,000 for an HBO-NALIP prize in early 2013.
  • $6,000 for the Camera Justitia Award at Movies That Matter Film Festival in 2013.
  • $66,000 from Dutch Embassy in Guatemala for post-production and initial outreach in Guatemala late 2011
  • $23,000 from U.S. Embassy in Guatemala for outreach in early 2012
  • $6,000 from Movies That Matter Foundation for outreach with police, judges, and lawyers with our partners from Aquí Entre Hombres 2013

The Filmmaker

Film School:

  • University of California, Santa Cruz, Master’s in Social Documentation (a film production program).
  • Pitzer College, Bachelor’s in Media Studies

Other Studies:

  • NALIP’s “Doing Your Doc: Diverse Visions, Regional Voices” seminar (November 2009, with Fernanda Rossi)
  • NALIP’s Latino Producers Academy (August 2010)

For a Living:

  • 2nd Assistant Director, reality TV show “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” (2010)
  • Field producer for Herbalife promotional videos
  • Teaching, Cal State University, Monterey Bay (2013)

Survival Strategy:

  • Intermittent babysitting gigs
  • A couple of months working as a barista at a local café
  • Activism work in Guatemala with Justice for My Sister campaign
  • Public speaking engagements related to film at universities

Previous Films:

  • 12 short documentary films
  • Intern at LATV’s American Latino (a celebrity news program)
  • Production assistant on Morgan Spurlock’s documentary, “Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope” (2011)

Kimberly’s Smart Move

Three years into filming, Bautista feared returning for a master shot of Rebeca, the main character, would be an annoyance or worse, produce only rehearsed answers. Bautista’s solution: “I took the kids for a walk and left the cinematographer to ask the questions. Not only did the trip with the kids allow for a quiet house, but the fact that Rebeca was explaining the events to someone new to her brought some lightness to the storytelling, and put her in a position where she truly had to explain it to someone who didn’t know the context.”

Never Again

Bautista had to be very careful about whom she interviewed and how she interviewed them, since there was an ongoing court case. One day she strolled in to see Dina Donis — the defense attorney who blamed the victim for her own death and tried to tarnish her character — absentmindedly bringing along Rebeca, the sister of the victim.

“They showed us the door immediately. I had to go to great lengths to meet with her higher-up in the country’s capital to convince him that I was an objective storyteller and that the story needed her point of view in order to be complete. My trust with Dina eventually developed, but it took several years.”

Memorable Moments

Bautista and Rebeca went to get tacos and beers at a place similar to the place where Adela, Rebeca’s murdered sister, used to work.

“Suddenly on the jukebox ‘Amor Eterno’ started to play, and Rebeca dedicated the song to her departed and beloved sister and began to sing her heart out. I began to cry, and Rebeca said that was the first time she saw me cry.”

Bautista had shed many tears in the edit room, but in production she had to stay present physically and detach herself emotionally in order to support the people who were letting her into their lives. “That afternoon in the taqueria was the first time I had become truly vulnerable with Rebeca.”

Will She Relapse and Make Another Film?

Will she! Bautista is busy producing short webisodes of women who have left their hometowns to break the cycle of violence. Many have become undocumented immigrants in the United States, where they live under the radar. These short documentaries will be housed in the Justice for My Sister campaign and be used in workshops and awareness concerts.

She is also working on a short fictional comedy about the politics of female body hair. And she will relapse in full form with a feature-length documentary about government surveillance and privacy in the United States.

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Published by

Fernanda Rossi
Fernanda Rossi collaborates with filmmakers in all areas of storytelling, from development to fine cut. As an author, international speaker and story analyst she has doctored over 300 documentaries, fiction scripts and fundraising samples, including two nominated for an Academy Award®. Author of Trailer Mechanics: How to Make Your Documentary Fundraising Demo. More info at www.documentarydoctor.com. Follow Fernanda at facebook.com/storydoctoring.