A film about sheep that got a lot more than money

Credit: Virginie Moerenhout.
Credit: Virginie Moerenhout.

With just sheep and dogs to keep him company, sheepherder Eraldo Pacheco moved from the lush Chilean countryside to the harsh, unfamiliar, lonely deserts of Idaho. Gaucho del Norte follows that journey.

“I would say the first 15 minutes of our film was covered by that initial campaign,” said Caballero in a phone interview.

Gaucho del Norte filmmakers Andres Caballero and Sofian Khan captured their protagonist’s journey from South America in part because of a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The film shares the mental and physical obstacles Pacheco clears in order to support his family thousands of miles away.

There isn’t a lot of dialogue,  the striking visuals are comment enough, allowing the filmmakers to show viewers stunning visuals of Patagonia, which begs the question: Why would a person leave such a beautiful place?

“Many people are just used to thinking of immigration as the struggling immigrant having barely any food or barely any security or safety or a decent place to live,” Caballero said. “This guy was in the countryside of Chile and the film starts in his town, in this utopic environment with a feast for Christmas and that is not the typical image.

“And the reality is that isn’t just the poor people who are starving or running away from drug lords who come up here to make some money and give their families a better life. It’s people who are ok, not necessarily starving, but want the next step up, like education for their kids.”

The duo’s Kickstarter campaign, which raised more than $5,300, did not only play a role in launching the film, but continued to influence financiers as the three-year project rolled on. Private financiers contacted the duo after seeing the campaign and they were able to use it as a promotional tool while also turning to foundations for funding.

Private financiers contacted the duo after seeing the campaign,  and they were able to use it as a promotional tool when they turned to foundations for funding.

“Just in getting the word out there, it was very helpful for us,” Caballero said about Kickstarter. “It’s a fundraising tool, very simple thing, but the word gets out there and even if someone doesn’t give money to it, maybe they’ll just say ‘Hey, ‘I’m a reporter doing this … let me write about it,’ and then that leads to more opportunity. Same with other people who just hear about it, or filmmakers who might say, ‘I want to be a part of it, let me know how I can help.’ In so many ways – not just the financial aspect – it was very helpful.”

Gaucho del Norte was selected to appear several film festivals and made its TV debut on PBS America ReFramed. You can watch the documentary on Vimeo on Demand.

Editor’s note: Joe Proudman and Andres Caballero were classmates at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

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Joe Proudman
Joe is a filmmaker and multimedia journalist based in Davis, Calif.

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