The Making of Mujeres Con Pelotas
Article by Sharon Salt.
Ginger Gentile and Gabriel Balanovsky are busy, busy, busy. When I talk with them in their studio about their latest documentary, Mujeres Con Pelotas, our conversation is punctuated by the faint bells of phones and Skype and the click-clacking of typing when Ginger has to respond to urgent emails. Though they have already been featured on multiple TV channels and in multiple newspapers, they still have a full schedule of interviews ahead of them. All this buzz is no surprise when one considers the topic of the documentary: an uplifting story about a women’s soccer league from Villa 31.
“As with any first-time project, you make some mistakes,” Gabriel says, “So we’re very grateful for the attention. It’s unexpected, we are so surprised.” But small mistakes or no, it’s not just the subject of the documentary that carries it; it’s also all the work Ginger and Gabriel have done, which is nothing short of impressive.
According to Ginger, a documentary is said to take between three and five years — but Mujeres Con Pelotas took six. Though Ginger and Gabriel hired a production manager and outsourced sound and color correction, everything else was all them: the shooting, the editing, the story.
“We first read about the team in the newspaper in 2008,” says Ginger, “and at the time, we didn’t have any upcoming projects, we were looking for new material.” So they promptly asked for the coach’s phone number and introduced themselves. “The team had already been getting a lot of press, but making a documentary is a much longer, more in-depth process. We get to know them, we earn their trust.”
Mujeres Con Pelotas chronicles the day-to-day struggles of the young women as they fight, undeterred, not only for field space but also to be recognized as true soccer players. “We loved their spirit, their struggle,” says Ginger.
“Everyone always asks us what is was like to film in a villa,” Gabriel tells me, “but the truth is, that was the easy part. The hard part was dealing with teenage girls. We didn’t prepare for that!”
“One girl would talk to us one day, then not talk to us the next,” Ginger adds, “We didn’t understand why until someone explained that she was upset because we had been talking to another girl beforehand, and there was some boyfriend drama there.”
But Ginger and Gabriel persisted, and soon they had earned the team’s trust. Eventually, they were awarded an INCAA grant which enabled them to finish the project in 2013. From there, Mujeres Con Pelotas went on to an Amnesty International film festival in London, and then to a festival in Havana, and later, BAFICI. The big premiere was held about a week ago with a slightly longer version of the film. “We looked back, and there was a lot of good, extra footage, so we added ten minutes of material,” Ginger says. Their work may never be done.
Ginger and Gabriel also directed workshops for the team on the weekends, teaching the girls about stop motion animation, TV makeup (like zombies and blood and monsters!) and special effects. Once Mujeres Con Pelotas was complete, they also traveled as a group to a screening, an outing which Ginger detailed on her blog.
The girls loved it. Finally, they felt validated. “It’s a human right to be able to play sports, for women to use their free time as they wish,” Ginger explains.
Because it’s an independent film, there’s no budget for advertising, so Ginger and Gabriel have had to drum up their own buzz. “We’re always posting new screening times on our Facebook page,” Ginger says. “Once, a women even called us and said, ‘I’m in Avellaneda, how do I get to the theater?’ So we told her what bus to take.”
Busy as they are, Ginger and Gabriel have made themselves as accessible as possible. Mujeres Con Pelotas, after all, is a project six years in the making, and they are invested in seeing both the documentary and the team succeed.
For additional screening times — especially screenings with English subtitles and Q&As — please watch the My Beautiful Air calendar for updates, or the Mujeres Con Pelotas facebook page.