DISRUPTION explores a groundbreaking initiative that seeks to eradicate poverty by empowering women on government assistance programs in Colombia, Peru and Brazil to “save their way out of poverty.” The film interweaves women’s testimonies to the transformative power of financial education with the story of Fundación Capital, a group of dynamic activist-economists that believes when you invest in women you change society. As women share how economic empowerment led to their growth as local political figures, entrepreneurs, and peer-educators, we follow the team at Fundación Capital while they strive to bring their successful grassroots model to millions more women across the region, collaborating with governments and big banks in order to do so. In a time when many of the world’s problems seem intractable, the stories of the characters in DISRUPTION show us how society can be transformed for the better through community-led change.
Latin America is a group of nations on the rise, yet income distribution in the region remains one of the most unequal in the world. Our story takes place in South America where hundreds of millions live in dire circumstances and the poorest of the poor are the women. It is the plight of women like these which sets a group of Latin American economists on a mission: “Poverty is not inevitable, it can vanish and it must vanish,” says Yves Moury, the founder of Fundación Capital, “it’s the greatest scandal of our times.”
The dynamic group of activist-economists at Fundación Capital develops a new approach to economic development. Breaking away from microcredit, the established policy of the time which often placed the poor further in debt, they instead set out to give poor women access to bank accounts and financial services in order to save and build assets.
Fundación Capital’s new methodology was not immediately embraced. “I thought they were putting crazy ideas into my head,” says Agripina Perea, resident of Cartagena, Colombia and a graduate of the program, “telling me to save when I had no money to save?” And when Yves first presented the idea that they’d empower women with bank accounts to the Colombian government, officials responded: “What you, Mr. Moury, want to do is destroy the family structure of the country.”
Despite the initial resistance, the group’s innovative programs in Peru and Colombia are met with great success: In the Peruvian Andes, we meet Cirila Quillahuaman who tells us that the women in her Quechua village, once like “sleeping beauties,” are now learning to use accounts to build savings and start small businesses, changing the power dynamics within their families and communities. “We have nothing to fear. We shouldn’t be stuck in the house,” Cirila asserts, “we should be engaged in our community, and our district, and even in national affairs.” Since getting involved in the program, Cirila has been elected as city councilwoman and plans to run for mayor.
In the slums of Cartagena Colombia, we meet Agripina Perea. Displaced from her home by paramilitaries, and forced to start a new life in Cartagena, Agripina has been able to build a business from what she learned, and saved, in the Fundación Capital inspired Women Savers program. “I don’t know where they got such a great idea to unite women and teach them how to save,” she says, “and through that, to teach them their rights.” Agripina sees that the program’s effects extend far beyond financial inclusion: “Now women know their rights, and they speak up when they are mistreated, abused, and in cases of rape.”
After success with grassroots savings projects with women in Colombia and Peru, Fundación Capital then seeks to take all they have learned about empowerment through savings and link it to a giant conditional cash transfer program in Brazil. The program, Bolsa Familia, transfers cash every month to more than 13 million women living in extreme poverty across the country, on the condition that they keep their children in school through secondary education and take them to health clinics on a regular basis. These cash transfers are given without any financial education for the women recipients, however, and they stop once children graduate from high school. Fundación Capital meets with Brazilian government officials, advocating for the addition of financial training to Bolsa Familia so that women are not merely tools to support the children but can themselves reach economic empowerment and move out of poverty.
The group then returns to Colombia to scale up what had previously been a grassroots savings project to millions of families. To achieve this Fundación Capital, with the support of Citi Foundation, decides to use tablet computers as facilitators to teach financial education. Equipped with the Fundación Capital designed-ColombiaLISTA, a self-guided app which teaches financial literacy using game theory, the tablets are a very effective: “The tablet taught us a lot of things,” says one participant, “to save for our children, not to waste water, or electricity. To help in the community. To be united as a family.”
Against all odds, the women who participate in Fundación Capital’s programs become empowered economic and political agents of change in their communities. These innovative approaches to expanding financial inclusion, co-designed by economists in collaboration with women living in poor communities, are now poised to spread to 40 countries. If the model is taken to scale, could 20 million women upend a continent? DISRUPTION sets the stage for this potential paradigm shift.
Pamela Yates was born and raised in the Appalachian coal-mining region of Pennsylvania but ran away at the age of 16 to live in New York City. Yates is a co-founder of Skylight Pictures, a company dedicated to creating films and digital media tools that advance awareness of human rights and the quest for justice by implementing multi- year outreach campaigns designed to engage, educate and activate social change.
Yatesʼ films have spanned the globe geographically, covering a wide spectrum of human experience. She directed When the Mountains Tremble (the prequel to Granito) about a revolutionary moment in Guatemala, that won the Special Jury Prize at the first Sundance Film Festival. She also directed a trilogy of films Living Broke in Boom Times, an inside look at homeless activistsʼ movement to end poverty.
She is currently working on a quartet of films about transitional justice. The first, State of Fear based on the findings of the Peruvian Truth Commission, has been translated into 47 languages and broadcast in 154 countries. The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court is an international thriller about the possibilities and pitfalls facing humanityʼs quest for world justice; Granito the third film, revisits the subjects of her previous 1982 film When the Mountains Tremble after the film and all of its outtakes become forensic evidence in an international war crimes case. Part detective story, part memoir, Granito transports audiences through a riveting, haunting tale of genocide and justice spanning four decades. Yates is also developing a sister transmedia project, Granito: Every Memory Matters.
She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in support of her current film, Granito. She is a member of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
Yates is also the Executive Producer of the Academy Award winning Witness to War, the Producer of the Emmy Award winning Loss of Innocence, and the Overseas Press Club Award recipient for State of Fear.
Paco de Onís grew up in several Latin American countries and is multi-lingual. He has just released Granito (world premiere at Sundance 2011), a documentary detective story focused on the role of filmic and archival documentation in the prosecution of a genocide case against Guatemalan generals, and launching Granito: Every Memory Matters, a companion transmedia project.
He recently produced The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court (world premiere Sundance 2009), accompanied by IJCentral, an interactive audience engagement initiative promoting global rule of law, developed at the BAVC Producerʼs Institute in 2008. Prior to that, he produced State of Fear, a Skylight Pictures film about Peruʼs 20-year “war on terror” based on the findings of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Paco is a partner at Skylight Pictures, and previously produced documentaries for PBS (“On Our Own Terms” with Bill Moyers), National Geographic (“Secrets from the Grave“), and a range of other programs. Before producing television documentaries, he created music festivals in South America & the Caribbean, renovated and operated an arts/performance theater in Miami Beach, (The Cameo Theater) and owned and operated a Spanish-style tapas tavern in a 500-year old colonial house in Cartagena, Colombia.
Emmy Nominated “Granito-How to Nail a Dictator” is the most recent in a long line of social justice documentaries for Producer/Editor Peter Kinoy. Three decades ago Kinoy founded Skylight Pictures with filmmaking partner and longtime collaborator Pamela Yates. Kinoy specializes in documentaries that let the audience feel part of exciting but unreported worlds. He produced and edited When the Mountains Tremble, the prequel to Granito about a revolutionary moment in Guatemala that won a Special Jury Prize at the first Sundance Film Festival. Takeover, the story of homeless activists illegally seizing houses was the first riveting doc in a trilogy about an underground anti-poverty movement in America that included Poverty Outlaw (Sundance-1997) and Outriders (PBS-1999). He pioneered self-documentation with small format cameras with Teen Dreams, a searing look at youth living on the edge (Sundance 1995). Kinoy took audiences deep into the criminal justice system with a PBS special Presumed Guilty about the trials and tribulations of Public Defenders. He edited the award winning State of Fear (Best reporting on Latin America, Overseas Press Club), and The Reckoning: The Battle for the International Criminal Court, (POV 2009) an international thriller about the possibilities and pitfalls facing humanityʼs quest for international justice.
Peter Kinoy has a passion for teaching and has mentored emerging filmmakers at City College of New York, Columbia University, Casa Comal in Guatemala, and at the International School of Film and Television in Cuba. He was a founder of The Media College of the University of the Poor here in the US. He is a member of The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
Our new film DISRUPTION explores an avenue to social change that deserves to be better known: the quest for economic rights led by women.
DISRUPTION is about millions of women marginalized by poverty in Latin America and the promise of their efforts to make a better life for themselves and their families. In DISRUPTION we follow several of these women and a band of activist economists who – together – seem to have found a new approach to eradicating poverty and inequality. But have they? We follow our protagonists as they team up with governments and global financial institutions to re-shape public policies and initiate innovative programs on a massive scale. As millions of women participate in these programs – in Colombia, Peru and Brazil – we see new energies, ignored in conventional developmental thinking, that propel many of them into active civic and political participation. Can these strategies grow into a significant force for progressive change in Latin America? Could they spread to other countries around the world, catalyzing a global disruption of the status quo? These are the central questions of our film.
Since founding Skylight in 1981, we have been committed to the advancement of human rights and social justice through media. We have told stories that explore and document a range of pathways to social change; from rebellion against a brutal military dictatorship in Guatemala (When the Mountains Tremble), to direct action movements by the poor in the U.S. (Takeover, Poverty Outlaw), to the role of new transitional justice mechanisms like truth commissions (State of Fear) and the International Criminal Court (The Reckoning), to the relationship of justice to social change (Granito).
For more than 30 years, the human rights movement has achieved extraordinary advances in criminal justice, such as the prosecution of military dictators (Argentina, Guatemala) and former heads of state (Fujimori) for grave human rights violations. But at the same time the roots of the social upheavals we’ve been documenting over this span – extreme poverty and economic inequality – have remained an endemic, even deepening atrocity. DISRUPTION poses a challenge to the global human rights movement to rethink how economic rights can be made a significant force in development, through strategies that relate more effectively to potential allies in government and the private sector. We believe that those who believe in the power of human rights must find new ways to address economic injustice – and on a scale commensurate with the millions of people around the world that are mired in poverty.
DISRUPTION builds on our decades of commitment to the struggle for human rights to illuminate new developments that should be part of our debates about how they can be expanded and made more effective in our world today.
Pamela Yates (Director), Paco de Onís (Producer), Peter Kinoy (Editor)