Filmmaker, writer, and Supervising Producer of Amazon’s Ritual Justin R. Ching has secured the rights to the award-winning documentary short Esfuerzo.
Director Alana Maiello made the short film, which centers on Mexican American immigrants who care for California’s wine vineyards, “to give a voice to the people behind the vine.” Maiello says, “most people don’t make the connection that wine is agriculture, and is therefore largely farmed by migrant workers, who are often undocumented immigrants. If you can imagine, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will quite literally chase down these workers in the vineyards on raids”
“We were struck by the story of this central paradox in the elite perception of wine culture and the reality of the work that goes into it. For those workers who are undocumented, they service a predominantly conservative world in the wine industry that would likely oppose the inclusion of the very community that actually makes the wine. Simply put, many in the world of wine are trying to build a wall and deport these immigrants,” says Ching.
The project aligns with the mission of Ching’s production company, j-school, which empowers underrepresented groups like the subjects of Esfuerzo to tell their own stories in their own voices.
“We’ve had a number of producers interested in this project, and we partnered with Justin, not only because he grew up in rural California and understands the context of this story, but it’s clear that he’s committed to the integrity of the story, one of a marginalized and exploited group of people,” says Maiello.
In its current short form, Esfuerzo is touring the festival circuit starting with the Portland Film Festival October 22-28, the Napa Valley Film Festival November 7-11, and as an award nominee at the NYC Web Fest November 8-10.
Ching, in partnership with Maiello, plans to develop Esfuerzo into a feature-length film. “I’m so excited to see this project come to fruition,” he says. “Alana’s heart and vision for this project are unmatched, and I’m honored to help develop this into the feature-length it deserves to be.”
Ching is also known for producing the Amazon Prime Exclusive Ritual following the game-day rituals of celebrity NFL athletes and their fans; Z Dream, featuring Sung Kang of Fast & Furious fame; and the PowerForward series inspired by basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and featuring Spanx founder Sara Blakely, NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, General Electric Vice Chair Beth Comstock.