connect / 2014

A traveling documentary film festival revitalizing public spaces with free community events.

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Ambulante

Fosters community & starts cross-cultural dialogues via a mobile cinema platform that showcases nonfiction narrative films.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Fosters community & starts cross-cultural dialogues via a mobile cinema platform that showcases nonfiction narrative films.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits all of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside
  • Santa Clara and Boyle Heights

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Ambulante USA is a nonprofit based in Los Angeles that focuses on supporting and promoting documentary film as a tool for social and cultural transformation. One of the principal programs, Ambulante California, is an annual film festival tour that travels to areas with limited access to film in an effort to diversify and democratize documentary culture. Its aim is to reach a broader audience by screening films in a wide array of alternative venues and offering its programming for free. In partnership with community organizations, the goal is to create unique exhibition spaces and make accessible stories that reflect LA communities’ diverse heritage and enhance cross-cultural appreciation of other viewpoints.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

For Ambulante USA and its director, Christine Davila, the process of identifying, meeting and nurturing alliances with local organizations is a fundamental and never-ending process. The organization’s traveling platform and grassroots personal outreach finds a wealth of humanistic and social service organizations compassionately serving its base. Ambulante California aims to be a cultural aggregator of this network by promoting the work of each partner and in turn strengthening the collective interdisciplinary efforts to meet their goals. This speaks to the community base aspect.

By design, Ambulante California is a participatory platform that grows to meet the increasing level of public engagement and response to it. At each screening Ambulante USA invites local businesses, artisans and artists to be part of the program. We develop and activate our audiences to creatively involve their community, and influence the type of festival event they want to experience. For instance, through Ambulante California ’s website the public has the opportunity to vote on where they would like to see a screening event take place. The general public is invited to submit their short films to the festival programmers to consider selecting as part of the program. Audience members are surveyed to ask what kind of films they would like to see programmed. This speaks to the audience driven aspect, interactive and feeding the model to fine tune it to adapt it best to serve the communities needs and wants.

In order to distill the complexities and provide a deeper context for discussing films’ themes and issues, Ambulante California invites experts in correlated fields to moderate conversation with the filmmaker and audience. Ambulante USA believes in enriching the cultural activity and missions of other nonprofits. Collaboration with private and public organizations is at the core of Ambulante’s model. This serves to provide a contextualized space to engage in dialogue and inform a critical society.

Ambulante California also stimulates the revitalization of urban public spaces to foster neighborhood community. By inhabiting our public spaces as town halls to discuss necessary topics or to discover a variety of viewpoints, it indicates to local government the need to invest and sustain clean, secure recreational parks and plazas.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?

Ambulante USA in the California context seeks to integrate its participatory platform with the diverse ecosystem of sub-cultures found within the sprawling and decentralized population to foster artistic expression and connect communities.

Today, there is strong desire to link the fragmented in Greater Area of Los Angeles. There is no other traveling film festival in Los Angeles that reaches out directly to low income communities and the general public in an effort to bring a relevant curation of non-fiction film programming for free. Since the nature of the festival is to be constantly in motion, the vast potential to reach diverse, multicultural and fragmented audiences is particularly potent. Another unique aspect of Ambulante California is that it is by nature inclusive. Ambulante’s amorphous virtue and open-sourced development consistently forges mutually beneficial collaborations with local, private and public organizations.

Although a number of film festivals in Los Angeles offer outdoor free community screenings as part of the overall program, this is the main component of Ambulante USA and Ambulante California.

Ambulante California offers an entertaining, stimulating, thought-provoking and educational movie-going alternative to the limited choices found in commercial outlets, especially for working class families and low to moderate income communities in Los Angeles.

The festival tour may take place once a year, but the nonprofit’s plans include a year round program of monthly screenings on a smaller scale with local community and institutes. The intention is to create a movement in Los Angeles of “Ambulantes” or residents who can share using the power of documentary cinema, who can discover new public spaces by attending screenings in safe and makeshift public spaces, and who are transformed by the dialogue generated in their own communities.

Whom will your project benefit?

While the City and County of Los Angeles has a vibrant social and fine art scene, the reality is there is a high density of decentralized populations in the greater metropolitan area that is often overlooked: residents who do not have the resources to access a variety of culture and art exchange either because of the price of admission or exclusive settings. Ambulante USA addresses this extreme disparity in accessibility by going directly into these communities to offer interactive documentary events for free, with the consciousness of transforming the cultural exchange to each new geographical and social context.

Rather than serving one specific demographic, the model attracts and brings a cross section of the public together to share an experience, resulting in a resonant and unparalleled connection among the fragmented sprawl in California. The organization will venture to areas traditionally marginalized, like the Skid Row area, and concentrated Spanish language speaking neighborhoods. Ambulante USA’s goal is to integrate all residents, especially those systematically left out of the conversations that documentary film provokes and reflects.

Beyond the projected audience of the 10,000 people we expect to reach, the most consequential impact is the diversity and multi-tier of class, gender, age and race the attendance figure represents. In addition to the audiences, the approximately 100 volunteers recruited, sourced from each community Ambulante California visits, will undergo production training and orientation of the themes and subjects of each documentary. An essential aspect is building morale, motivation and empowering the volunteers as ambassadors of the festival. In that respect we will offer volunteer screenings of the films in advance of the festival so they may adequately and passionately speak about the merits of the program.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Ambulante USA in the California context seeks to integrate its participatory platform with the diverse ecosystem of sub-cultures found within the sprawling and decentralized population to foster artistic expression and connect communities. Today, there is strong desire to link the fragmented in Greater Area of Los Angeles. There is no other traveling film festival in Los Angeles that reaches out directly to low income communities and the general public to bring a relevant curation of non-fiction film programming for free. Since the nature of the festival is to be constantly in motion, the vast potential to reach diverse, multicultural and fragmented audiences is particularly potent. Another unique aspect of Ambulante California is that it is by nature inclusive. Ambulante’s amorphous virtue and open sourced development consistently forges mutually beneficial collaborations with local, private and public organizations.

Although a number of film festivals in Los Angeles offer outdoor free community screenings as part of the overall program, this is the main component of Ambulante USA and Ambulante California.

Ambulante California offers an entertaining, stimulating, thought provoking and educational movie-going alternative to the limited choices found in commercial outlets, especially for working class families and low to moderate income communities in Los Angeles.

The festival tour may take place once a year but the nonprofit’s plans include a year round program of monthly screenings, on a smaller scale, with local community and institutes. The intention is to create a movement in Los Angeles of Ambulate residents that can share by the power of documentary cinema, that can discover new public spaces by attending screenings in safe and makeshift public spaces, and that are transform by the dialogue generated in their own communities.

The participation of each site we visit includes not just audience engagement but volunteers from each area. Our volunteers are trained and given a level of independence, confidence and boosts of morale. We attract young go-getters and older film lovers as volunteers. Our films are family driven but are also emotional which can really affect adults.

Ambulante California does not impose any ideas or restrictions on the communities it enters, creating a safe space for people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds to participate in important dialogues.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?

  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
  • Attendance at cultural events
  • Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally (Dream Metric)
  • Total number of social media friends (Dream Metric)
  • Attendance at public/open street gatherings (Dream Metric)
  • Residential segregation (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Ambulante USA in the California context seeks to integrate its participatory platform with the diverse ecosystem of sub-cultures found within the sprawling and decentralized population to foster artistic expression and connect communities. Today, there is strong desire to link the fragmented in Greater Area of Los Angeles. There is no other traveling film festival in Los Angeles that reaches out directly to low income communities and the general public to bring a relevant curation of non-fiction film programming for free. Since the nature of the festival is to be constantly in motion, the vast potential to reach diverse, multicultural and fragmented audiences is particularly potent. Another unique aspect of Ambulante California is that it is by nature inclusive. Ambulante’s amorphous virtue and open sourced development consistently forges mutually beneficial collaborations with local, private and public organizations.

Although a number of film festivals in Los Angeles offer outdoor free community screenings as part of the overall program, this is the main component of Ambulante USA and Ambulante California.

Ambulante California offers an entertaining, stimulating, thought provoking and educational movie-going alternative to the limited choices found in commercial outlets, especially for working class families and low to moderate income communities in Los Angeles.

The festival tour may take place once a year but the nonprofit’s plans include a year round program of monthly screenings, on a smaller scale, with local community and institutes. The intention is to create a movement in Los Angeles of Ambulate residents that can share by the power of documentary cinema, that can discover new public spaces by attending screenings in safe and makeshift public spaces, and that are transform by the dialogue generated in their own communities.

The participation of each site we visit includes not just audience engagement but volunteers from each area. Our volunteers are trained and given a level of independence, confidence and boosts of morale. We attract young go-getters and older film lovers as volunteers. Our films are family driven but are also emotional which can really affect adults.

Ambulante California does not impose any ideas or restrictions on the communities it enters, creating a safe space for people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic backgrounds to participate in important dialogues.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Ambulante USA’s mission - to use documentary film as a tool for cultural transformation - offers a new model of civic engagement for the Arts and Culture scene in Los Angeles. It is more than a film festival and meets the CONNECT, LIVE and PLAY LA2050 Metrics. The nature of traveling to the communities where the films are being screened to new audiences opens up the possibility of re-defining the use of their public spaces and offers to the residents of LA the unique opportunity to create safer neighborhoods through the use of documentary screening. People can discuss issues that matter to them with intergenerational audiences in public settings.

The following are our tools to measure success:

  1. Tools to Measure LA2050 Connect Metrics
    • Number of attendance
    • Surveys of each screening demographic
    • Number of volunteers
    • Number of events by type of space.
    • Number of public transit riders
    • Number of filmmakers and speakers
    • Number of documentaries and list of represented countries.
    • Press coverage
  2. Tools to Evaluate LA2050 Live Metrics
    • Number of people who walk/bike/ use public transit
    • Number of events creating saver neighborhood
    • Attendance at public/open street gatherings
    • Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally
    • Contributing to stopping residential segregation
    • Percentage of female and male directors
  3. Tools to Evaluate LA2050 Create Metrics
    • Creating higher employment in creative industries
    • Creating new jobs for minorities and women
    • Creating greater amount of arts establishment per capita
  4. Tools to Evaluate LA2050 Dream Metrics -Attendance at public/open street gatherings -Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally -Contributing to stopping residential segregation -Total Number of Social Media friends and connections Angelenos Make

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

How very important it is to make events inclusive for audiences from different generations, socioeconomic backgrounds and walks of life and also to take direct feedback from them through brief video interviews after screening in order to collect visually and measure the impact of the Ambulante California’s mobile cinema experience. Also to have confidence in delegating more responsibility to volunteers and we expand Ambulante USA since it has been a proven that this is the best way to operate in a fluid and progressive manner.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Over the past 10 years Ambulante in Mexico has garnered extensive experience in the production of film festivals in a variety of geographical and social contexts. In an attempt to actively reach out to new audiences Ambulante has managed to engage a wide variety of partners in the organization of the festival (multiplexes, film industry organizations, institutions, human rights organizations, grassroots organizations, universities, cultural centers, among others). The audience in Mexico has grown by over 700% in just 8 years, and the festival has managed to establish a reputable trajectory, backed by previous festival guests, multiple invitations to film festivals around the world, and awards, including the WOLA Human Rights Award in 2011 for promoting documentaries as a tool for change.

Although Ambulante has already held showcases in 34 cities across 16 countries, the nature of each of these events has varied considerably, depending largely on local partners’ interests, target audiences, and available support. Ambulante California is therefore designed as a sustainable independent model that can be implemented across a variety of geographical and social contexts, target new and diverse audiences, and abide to the objectives of Ambulante.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Finding the right mix of funding, private donors, grants and corporate sponsorship. Ideally we would like to have a diverse pool of funding sources so that the organization can implement their

An other challenge is the documentary genre, tends to be known as a boring educational tool. The curatorial rigor of the program will over time prove to audiences that documentary is in fact the most exciting cinema.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach