Memorias Del Fuego is a feature-length documentary about the stories, struggles, and triumphs of former female Sandinista soldiers in Nicaragua who refused to conform – changing the face of their country. Women comprised 30% of the Sandinista army and high command that won the Revolution in 1979, yet their heroic achievements are being systematically written out of Nicaragua's history. Four decades after their triumph, they are still fighting for justice and social equality. We knew we had to try to film these stories so we went this April, using only our own savings to capture what we could, and found more than we imagined. We had to get back to complete a feature.
Nicaragua's history is being rewritten to glorify the regime in power; we aim to preserve these women's achievements so they do not vanish. By filming their testimonies, and utilizing archival footage from the Revolution, we can document and share their contributions before they disappear. Although some are no longer living, we can still reach former combatants, especially the poor and less educated, who risked their lives fighting in the Revolution but have never been interviewed. Why did they fight? Did they get the changes they hoped for? We plan to reach them in rural areas of Nicaragua to finish documenting their untold stories.
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Women comprised an unparalleled (even by today's standards) 30% of the FSLN army and high command, which in 1979 overthrew the brutal Somoza dictatorship. The Revolution brought together diverse groups of women seeking change, from every class of society and level of education. Fighting against Nicaragua's economic disparity, social injustice, and pervasive domestic violence, they worked in all capacities in the war: Comandantes, Doctors, Messengers, Weapons Transporters, Combatants, and Photojournalists.
Dora María Téllez was a young medical student who trained in warfare in Cuba before leading the National Palace Operation and commanding a full guerrilla battalion.
Gioconda Belli was a young mother who worked as an advertising executive in Managua while training in secret, organizing large operations and transporting weapons and documents across borders.
Mónica Baltodano led the final battles of the Revolution as a member of the high command. She fought while pregnant, and was imprisoned for a year during which she was beaten and shackled naked for ten days in solitary confinement.
WHY DO THEY PERSEVERE?
Although they won the war, four decades following the victory, the ideals these women fought for have still not been realized. Our film will examine their work in the Revolution and their evolving struggles against violence and an autocratic government. These women are still activists – fighting for women's health and safety, writing books published all over the world, and running political parties. Each of their stories proves how multifaceted, how substantial, and how expansive one life can be.
In spite of their accomplishments, rape, murder ('femicide') and domestic violence against women are increasing in Nicaragua, and nearly all goes unreported. Nicaragua has the second highest rate of domestic violence in Latin America, with 1 in 3 women reporting physical abuse, according to Casa Alianza. A study in Social Science and Medicine claims that over 50% of married women in Leon have experienced abuse, but of those women 80% did not seek help. Despite these continuing struggles for a just society, these women all spoke of the joy they felt fighting for the future of their country. We believe their stories will inspire anyone fighting for equality or a more just society today.
WHO WE ARE:
Jenny Murray traveled to Nicaragua last year, and after returning to research and share what she found with Laura, they were both shocked to learn these women's stories were not widely known. Jenny convinced Laura for three months that even with no financial support they could go down and capture these stories on film. She graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University in New York where she studied Philosophy, Photography, and Latin American Film. After working as a licensed Associate on Watermill Trading's stock trading desk, she wrote and directed three films. The most recent was selected to screen at Anthology Film Archives in New York City this January in New Filmmakers New York Winterfest.
Laura Tomaselli has shot, produced, and edited documentaries and editorial for many publications including The Atlantic Monthly, SAVEUR, and Vice Magazine. She has also recently completed trailers for several documentary films centered on domestic and global social issues. “Anita” reframes the notorious controversy between Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas which launched the discussion on workplace harassment, “Call Me Kuchu” is a portrait of several openly gay Ugandans and the persecution they face, and also “The Invisible War,” which exposed the scope and severity of sexual assault in the American armed forces and was nominated for an Academy Award.
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