This week’s Crowdfunder Pick is Ambulante California, a U.S. spin-off of a traveling documentary film festival that’s made the rounds in Mexico for close to a decade.

With free screenings and unconventional spaces, the Mexican festival Ambulante engages diverse grassroots communities in the vein of an old-timey circus. With three Mexico tours under its belt, Ambulante California hopes to bring the festival to 12 stops in California this year with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.

Ambulante's staff in Mexico.

Ambulante’s staff in Mexico.

Multiplexes and conventional exhibition spaces are static shrines for cinema. But what if the restrictions of these traditionally sedentary venues were replaced with a nomadic format? One that, like Rooftop Films in New York, embraced the communal experience of open spaces and retook the city as an ever-changing screen? Ambulante is part of a new wave of community-centric festivals,  destroying preconceived notions on how to reach audiences.

Back in 2005, actor-filmmakers Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, and filmmakers Pablo Cruz and Elena Fortes, founded Ambulante in Mexico. For almost 10 years their traveling festival screened documentaries from around the world in 12 Mexican cities. More recently the festival has been adopted in countries like El Salvador and Colombia. With its latest iteration here in California, the festival harnesses cultural specificities of the Los Angeles area to create a unique version of the Ambulante film festival, while staying true to its original goal of bringing great documentaries to diverse audiences. The festival is free of charge and will take place September 21 to October 4. The new non-profit is partly supported by the Ford Foundation but needs supplemental funding to cover production costs and to enrich screenings with musical performances, art shows and post-screening receptions.

“We want to engage our audience in the creation of the festival,” co-founder Fortes told MovieMaker. “We place value on their input in venues, programming, and fundraising. Ambulante is a collective endeavor. The structure of the festival is very horizontal and we spend a lot of time training all our collaborators and volunteers so they are capable of replicating the festival in case we run out of funds. In a way, crowdfunding is quite natural. We are empowering our audience to become part of the festival.”

“It is important to host free screenings because it creates the unique opportunity to connect with others and to be a part of a collective process of reflection. To foster community on all levels and to feel part of something bigger than ourselves,” said Luna. Besides the exciting and unique rewards offered, backers will also get access to exclusive video content from Gael Garcia, Diego Luna and the entire Ambulante team.

Managing Director Marie-Ève Parenteau, Executive Director Elena Fortes, and Ambulante California Director Christine Davila

Managing Director Marie-Ève Parenteau, Executive Director Elena Fortes, and Ambulante California Director Christine Davila

Ambulante Mexico has screened internationally acclaimed films like The Act of Killing, After Tiller, Pussy Riot and The Missing Picture. With Christine Davila, director of Ambulante and a Sundance Programming Associate at the helm of the California festival, the program will include films on a variety of subjects including music, sports, social activism and environmental issues. While California will be the starting point for Ambulante in the U.S, the founders hope to expand to other American cities in the future. In Los Angeles, besides the inaugural festival in September, Ambulante California plans to host monthly screenings to provide local audiences with spaces to access content and foster communal experiences.

Synopsis: “From September 21 to October 4, Ambulante will embark on its first major U.S. tour through the Greater Los Angeles area. Our mission is simple: democratize documentary culture. Every year since 2005, Ambulante.Org has organized a three-month tour across Mexico to present remarkable international documentary cinema in areas with limited access to film. Thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation, we are on our way to adopting the festival model of the United States. We are less than three months from our festival tour and still need to secure supplemental funding to realize the large scale of the touring festival.  We ask our new public to be principal supporters and to join the Ambulante movement at this vital stage.” – Ambulante campaign page

Campaigners: Christine Davila, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Pablo Cruz, Elena Fortes

Target Amount: $52, 780

Amount Currently Raised: $22, 360

Campaign Opening Date: June 17, 2014

Campaign Closing Date: July 17, 2014

Funding Goes Towards: Ambulante will occupy alternative, outdoor and makeshift spaces while offering the best quality screen and sound. The funds raised on Kickstarter will go towards investing in state of the art projection, transportation costs, providing meals and gas mileage for volunteers, and enriching the festivals with musical performances, receptions and other artistic events.

Donor Reward Highlights:

$25: A password-protected link to the 2012 SXSW film Los Chidos, not yet released and which available exclusively through this Kickstarter.

$30: Your face will be part of a collage in the Ambulante California festival trailer.

$150: Entry to the Backers Only party right before the festival’s start. Diego Luna will be in attendance.

$250: Get a poster of the film Post Tenebras Luz, signed by Cannes-winner director Carlos Reygadas, and a picture postcard signed by Gael Garcia Bernal.

$500: Get your own Criterion Collection collector’s edition box set of Y Tu Mama Tambien, signed and dedicated to you by both Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal

$1,500: Experience the 10th edition of Ambulante Mexico in May 2015. Included: 2 hotel nights, lunch and dinners with filmmakers and guests, your own volunteer guide and translator and an all-access pass (flight not included)

Note: Most rewards above $20 include several other smaller rewards. These rewards can be seen on the Kickstarter campaign page. MM 

To learn more about Ambulante, visit their Kickstarter, Facebook, Website and Twitter pages.

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