On my way to a visit to Cuba this past August, I stopped in Dominican Republic to capture an update of the buzos as a last possible hurrah to finish the film. On my first day I tried to enter the dump but got stopped by a troop of armed guards. A few phone calls later, a friend got me permission to enter, but it was clear I wouldn’t have any kind of the same freedom I had had years prior to move around (see picture below where I ham it up with the guards).

On my last night in the community, I did a private screening of our work in progress for only the characters involved in the film. The only place we could find where we wouldn’t attract a large crowd was a shut-up boarded pitch-black empty house someone had recently vacated, and it had no electricity. We brought in a candle, a little wooden stool to prop up my computer, and everyone sat on the concrete floor to watch. At first they called out the people they saw on screen, “Look it’s Ramon! Pablo! Arisleyda!” They laughed. But then they grew serious. At the end, I asked them, “Did I represent you fairly? Is anything exaggerated or mis-stated? Is this the real story?” It’s the moment of truth for a filmmaker when you hold up a mirror of your work to the participants of your film. I had chewed off all my nails during the screening, nervous about what they would say.

They looked at me and said, “No. You showed us as we are. This is the reality. Our reality.”

Sometimes films take a long journey. Having started this film in 2007, I cannot believe I am in 2012, nearly 5 years later, and the film still isn’t hasn’t gone through all the finishing needed. It is an expedition however that has taught me much in the way of filmmaking, approach, process, mistakes, lessons. It also taught me the meaning of magic.


Leaving Havana, Arriving in Santo Domingo

After a trip to Cuba, I planned a stopover in Dominican Republic in order to film an update and get some much-needed pick-up shots for the film. Upon leaving city, I arrived at the Havana airport with $35 dollars left in my pocket. This disappeared in paying the taxi and the exit visa fee, and with not a cent to my name I flew out of Cuba 3 hours later. I hadn’t eaten much of anything in the last day, just some rice and eggs and was very hungry. On the plane I received the same meal I had gotten two weeks earlier, which I had looked upon with disdain: pan con queso (stale white bread with cheese and “ham”). This time, I devoured it. Upon arriving to Dominican Republic – a total reverse culture shock: I went straight to the ATM and with relish got crisp Dominican Pesos; I rented a car; I stopped to buy gas, and paid with my credit card just because I could; going inside the gas station store I felt like a kid in candyland… Lays potato chips! Hershey bars! I was overwhelmed. These are things I normally avoid like the plague and here I was gorging on junk food. Yesterday night entering a grocery store was almost a spiritual experience. Shelves and shelves teeming with a seemingly endless variety… SO MANY OPTIONS, SO MUCH FOOD!!!!!!!! It’s like seeing two sister islands back to back, but feeling like I traveled to another planet. I went to sleep with my belly full, and 10 hours later, awake again for the next adventure. I am going to drive today to Santiago, 2 hours north, and visit the trash dump for the first time in four years.


Rough Cut Work-in-progress screening TONIGHT at George Washington University

We’re having a work-in-progress screening at George Washington University under the umbrella of Docs In Progress, a very cool organization based right here in Washington DC. It’ll be the very first time I show the whole documentary to an audience.

Check this link for more information: http://docsinprogress.org/events/16/work-in-progress-screening-nov-3-2011/

It’s at 7pm-930pm at if you’d like to come,

George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs Building
805 21st Street, NW
Auditorium B-07
Washington DC 20052

There definitely will be one more work-in-progress screening at another location in the future, ideally in the DR.

Much love

Isabelle (& the team)

Rough Cut Progress

Massive progress on the rough cut! We are hovering at right under 70 minutes.

On the homefront, we’re at the stage to fill out the visuals and start building scenes visually (not just audio-interview-content). It’s overwhelming, but according to my story consultant, she’s never seen anyone shoot a feature length documentary with less than 40 hours of footage at the quality of visuals I made.

Did I mention we officially have DCIFF fiscal sponsorship as well? It’s nice as it allows us to submit to more foundations and grants, and opens a few other doors as well.

I’m currently based in Dubai for another month. It’s been a little nuts watching the news, feeling close and far away to everything happening in the middle east re: revolutions as Dubai is geographically and culturally close, but politically so far away. No protests or issues here.

Over and out,


Quick update on Story Structure

After some massive work over the story structure in the past month and a half, we are finally almost settled on an arc. It’s shorter, falling at around 70 minutes for the rough cut presently. Lots of good work and more to come ahead. We hope to finalize the structure in the next two weeks and then begin working on visuals.

Thanks again to everyone for the amazing kickstarter support!



Successful Campaign! Thank You!

Thanks to each and everyone for your support. I feel totally invincible to finish this film!

This immediate infusion is going to cover a lot of what I need done Right Now to be able to get to the Next Steps.

Because of your support, tomorrow I’m going to New York for a professional story consultancy session as one of my first very important steps to finish the rough cut!

Meanwhile, an important note: I need each and every backer’s address so I can send a little something-something to you. Even if you selected “no reward” please email me your address at

A second important note: if you are inspired by this campaign and would like to start your own, PLEASE EMAIL ME OR CALL ME FIRST so I can walk you through the pros and cons of doing a Kickstarter or other Crowdfunding campaign. It is not as easy as it seems on several levels! Let me help you get to know some of the ropes. I have some issues with Kickstarter and although I’m very grateful to have achieved this position, it’s something to be aware of.

Much love to everyone, and I’ll keep updating you on the progress that you helped create! I attached some pictures: The first is of Chivito, one of the child characters of the film, taking a picture of me taking a picture of him with a disposable camera he found in the dump. The second picture features some of the most adorable neighborhood kids that routinely all work in the dump with their parents…

More to come soon!

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Dear Friends,

We have raised, fantastically, up to $10,136 for my film “Somos Buzos.” See description below. We need $15,000 total, so we’re missing $4864. Kickstarter will not take a cent out of your account, nor give me one cent, if I do not reach my goal. Seriously. Help me make some magic in the next two hours.

Please, lets do one FINAL push in the next two hours. Please send, email, share, this link to anyone who might be sympathetic, want a cool reward, would like to learn filmmaking, free DVDs, a trip to the Dominican Republic and more. Thank you SO MUCH.


Thank you to EACH AND EVERYONE OF YOU to donated, shared, posted, linked, talked, you are absolutely amazing.


and then click on the green button on the right called  “BACK THIS PROJECT” and enter your information.

SOMOS BUZOS is a documentary about a community of people who live, breathe, eat, and die out of the trash in Cienfuegos, Santiago, Dominican Republic. It follows one buzo (their term for trash diver) who taught himself how to read and write at the age of 20 and considers the education for his kids as their way out. The last stages of production are very expensive and I just don’t have the funds or resources to cover what it takes. This started grass-roots and will end grass-roots. I’m determined to get the story of the buzos out there effectively and loudly. They deserve it the world over.