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Director Ilana Lapid and DP Robert Dugan

LC Filmmaker Ilana Lapid Premiering Film ‘Yochi’ at Belize International Film Festival

LAS CRUCES- Yochi, a film written and directed by Las Cruces filmmaker Ilana Lapid, will premiere at the 2016 Belize International Film Festival, in Belize City, November 10-13. In an additional honor, Yochi was selected as the opening night film.

Yochi has been receiving noteworthy recognition, most recently from renowned film director Roland Joffe (The Mission) in a tweet about Robert Dugan’s cinematography, calling it “Beautifully shot.”

Yochi is a story of a 9-year-old selectively mute Mayan boy who guards a nest of endangered Yellow-Headed Parrots in Belize’s pine savanna. When his beloved older brother, Itza, returns from the city, Yochi learns that he’s in debt and has turned to poaching – setting the brothers on a collision course.

FE7A2139 (1)“This film is a story about connection and finding your voice,” said Yochi director, Ilana Lapid. “It poses the question: what are you willing to sacrifice to protect that which is most sacred to you?” Ilana Lapid is also a professor at the Creative Media Institute (CMI) of New Mexico State University (NMSU).

Yochi is a film with a strong wildlife conservation message. Global populations of endangered Yellow-Headed Parrots have declined over 90% since the 1970s, due to poaching and deforestation. The filmmakers’ intention is for Yochi to raise awareness and encourage dialogue about poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

“Yochi is a story that people can relate to,” said renowned parrot biologist Dr. Tim Wright. “It really has the power to change people’s minds about the impact of the wildlife trade in ways that 100 scientific papers can never do.”

The Belize Film Commission identified Yochi as a film that can have positive social impact. The filmmakers are currently working with Belize Bird Rescue to plan a screening tour in towns and villages across Belize to educate pine savanna communities about alternatives to poaching.

Ilana Lapid and her crew have launched a Kickstarter crowd-fundraising campaign to raise $15,000 to pay for the post-production of their film and finish Yochi in time to premiere at the festival. “We are marketing the Yochi campaign around the world,” Lapid said. “I am so grateful for the enthusiastic response we have received so far. But we need a lot more support to reach our post-production and educational goals.”

Yochi, a US-Belizean co-production, was filmed in May, 2016 in western Belize, Central America with a crew made of Belizean filmmakers as well as talented students from CMI at NMSU.

Written, directed and produced by Lapid, Yochi is also produced by Kristi Drexler and Daniel Velazquez, and executive produced by Craig Holden.

NMSU CMI students include:

Robert Dugan (Cinematographer), Joaquin Chavana (1st AC/Gaffer), AJ Johnson (1st Assistant Director) and Nicholas Duron (Production Sound Recordist).

The cast, including leads Kerry Johan Landero and Evan Martinez, is made up entirely of Belizean non-actors from villages in Cayo district in western Belize. The film is in four languages: Yucatec Mayan, English Creole, English, and Spanish.

The story of Yochi and the vulnerable parrot chicks he guards serves as a poignant reminder of the threat that poaching poses to endangered species around the globe. Strong public support is now urgently needed to ensure the success of the Kickstarter campaign to finish the film.

The crew has already raised $4,000 in the first few days. But $11,000 still needs to be raised by Nov 10, or they won’t get to keep any of the money pledged. In helping this worthwhile conservation effort, you will also be helping a talented local female director represent New Mexico at an international film festival.

Donate to the Kickstarter & Share the link.

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