Jenny Murray was visiting a friend in Costa Rica last year when she came across an interview with Nicaraguan journalist Sofia Montenegro about the women such as Nora Astora, Gioconda Belli and Dora María Téllez, whose time spent fighting for the Sandinistas in the Revolution during the late 1970s put them at the forefront of another battle – for women’s rights. Soon after, Murray, who studied photography and Latin American film at Columbia University, was compelled to learn even more.
“I finally went to Nicaragua and was floored by the beauty of the country, the sense of history, Nicaraguan poetry, graffiti, murals, and the Revolution Museum in Leon that the people themselves had made,” recalls Murray, who soon contacted her friend Laura Tomaselli, an accomplished editor of documentary trailers. “I came back and spoke with Laura about the country, and bought all the books about women’s work in the Revolution that I could find, such as Gioconda Belli’s memoir [“The Country Under My Skin”] and Margaret Randall’s “Sandino’s Daughters.” Once we started reading, our desire to make a film was sparked.”
Having previously made a short together in New Orleans, Murray and Tomaselli decided to take a trip even further away from their homes in Brooklyn, borrowing all the equipment they could and using their personal savings to fund a fact-finding shoot in Central America this past April. That time yielded a trailer for “Memorias Del Fuego,” which conveys the same sense of discovery and excitement that Murray experienced firsthand during her initial visit. Yet after exhausting their bank accounts for the first shoot, the two are turning to Kickstarter to help them finish the project, currently raising funds before a September 10th deadline.
For the filmmakers, “Memorias Del Fuego” isn’t only an opportunity to share the extraordinary work of these photojournalists, historians and writers with the rest of the world, but to restore a remarkable group of women to their rightful place in Nicaraguan history where they served a critical role in bringing down the brutal dictatorship of the Somoza regime. With the help of American photographer Susan Meiselas and Nicaraguan photographer Gloria Ruiz, Murray and Tomaselli have already banked interviews with Montenegro and Belli, as well as other key figures such as former comandante-turned-historian Mónica Baltodano, AMPRONAC Revolutionary Women’s Movement Founder Lea Guido and photographers Claudia Gordillo and Margarita Montealegre. They have also befriended filmmakers in the region such as Maria Jose Alvarez, who have provided archival footage that brings this history to vivid life. Yet for two American filmmakers working abroad, additional funding will allow not only for more interviews, but for a bigger local crew to help with translation and navigation through the occasionally treacherous terrain of a country where the tremors of both the past and the literal intrusion of earthquakes are a part of daily life.
“People working with us in Nicaragua made this film possible,” says Murray. “When we go back, we plan to hire a local film crew there, with 1-2 camera operators and 1-2 producers who have intimate knowledge of the country, depending on how much we can fundraise.”
Should the Kickstarter campaign be successful, Murray and Tomaselli plan to travel back to Nicaragua in October and shoot through the fall with the hopes of hitting the festival circuit in the year ahead, working fast knowing that if they wait for long all of this history could disappear.
“We’re so excited to celebrate the extraordinary and under-appreciated work that so many women did to win the Revolution in Nicaragua,” says Murray. “Their stories changed our lives, and we hope and believe they will inspire anyone fighting for change and a more just society today.”
To back this project and watch the filmmakers’ personal pitch video, click here.
Photo credit: Margarita I. Montealegre