A feature documentary Norita, by director Jayson McNamara and producers Rebecca Bennett and Daniel Joyce, has been announced as the winner of the inaugural New Perspectives Pitch Lab, a pitch training initiative to support non-fiction talent with a social impact project in development or production.

The New Perspectives Pitch Lab is an initiative of the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), Doc Society, and the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC), in partnership with Screen NSW.

The Norita creative team will now participate in pitching opportunities at the 2021 Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) and receive complimentary all-access passes to the Conference.

Norita is a feature documentary set in Argentina. In 1977, Nora Cortiñas’ son was kidnapped by Argentina’s dictatorship. During her forty-year search for him, Nora is transformed from a conservative housewife into a trailblazing activist and celebrated icon, inspiring a new generation to fight for their democracy.

Director Jayson McNamara is a journalist and filmmaker working between Australia and Latin America. His debut film, Messenger on a White Horse, revealed the Buenos Aires Herald’s struggle for media freedom in reporting the story of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo during Argentine dictatorship. The film screened on Nat Geo Mundo in 2018 and, in the two years since, Jayson has been more intimately documenting the life of 90-year-old Argentine activist Nora Cortiñas. The two share a friendship that stems from their initial encounters at local LGBTQ+ campaigns, which Jayson covered while working as a reporter at the Buenos Aires Herald.

Producers are Rebecca Bennett from New South Wales and Daniel Joyce from South Australia. Rebecca’s most recent documentary Ghosthunter premiered at Sheffield Doc/Fest and won the Sydney Film Festival documentary award, the AACTA Award for best editing, and the AWGIE for best writing. Daniel’s most recent film, Martha: A Picture Story, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival in 2019 and has been widely released in 2020. His film Barbecue launched at SXSW before a global Netflix release in 2017. His previous documentaries have explored sites of social tension and personal ethics in projects such as Meatwork, Big Bad Love, and Maddie Parry: Tough Jobs for the ABC (Australia).

The judging panel said that it was highly impressed with the Norita team’s powerful pitch. In announcing the winning project, they said: “Drawing on his incredible access to captivating contributors, the director promises us a story of hope as he takes us on a journey that confirms that we are never too old to fight for what we deserve. The panel unanimously agrees that the project has strong international appeal and would benefit thoroughly from participating in AIDC’s curated pitching forum Cut to the Chase.”

The Norita filmmaking team said: “We’re really happy to be bringing the story of Nora Cortiñas to AIDC at a time when activism and resistance are experiencing a resurgence and, more than ever, we need inspirational personal stories to keep our heads up and our hearts full.”

Participants from other projects will also be given the opportunity to access the AIDC program. AIDC will waive application fees for the audio-visual documentary projects wishing to apply to pitch in The Factory and encourages all participants who have not previously attended AIDC to apply for the Leading Lights recipient fund.

The Pitch Lab consisted of five online coaching and development sessions and an online pitch event with mentors including Malinda Wink, Global Director of Good Pitch, Doc Society, and Screen NSW Investment Manager Andrea Ulbrick. The focus of the pitch training was to support participants to develop strategies and pathways for non-traditional access to audiences and finance for projects that have the potential for an impact campaign.

Doc Society, the creators behind global initiatives such as Good Pitch, Climate Story Lab, and the Impact Field Guide, is dedicated to the impact of art and the art of impact. Malinda Wink, Global Director, Good Pitch, on behalf of Doc Society, said: “I was so impressed with the talent of the project teams, and also how receptive they were to feedback from the local and international mentors and panellists. It has been wonderful to witness the sharpening of their stories, pitches, and approach to impact over the course of the short program. Congratulations to all of the participants, and an enormous thank you to our project partners AFTRS, AIDC, and Screen NSW, and to our incredible mentors and ‘friendly dragons’ who contributed their time, energy, and insight to make our first New Perspectives Pitch Lab a success.”

Head of Screen NSW, Grainne Brunsdon, said: “Screen NSW is proud to be in partnership with AFTRS, Doc Society and AIDC for the inaugural New Perspectives Pitch Lab. We congratulate the winning team behind the documentary Norita, who have revealed a passion to craft a powerful, longitudinal character-led story, that follows trailblazing activist 90-year-old Nora Cortiñas during her various protests in Argentina. The team’s plan for a globally relevant, social impact campaign will bring new voices and perspectives to the rights of women everywhere.”

AFTRS Head of Documentary, Richard Welch, said: “AFTRS was thrilled to partner with Doc Society, AIDC, Screen NSW and Screen Australia on the inaugural New Perspectives Pitch Lab. The strength of ideas on the show was only matched by the dedication from every team to keep developing their projects – it has been incredible to see the progress each team has made during the pitch labs and I’m excited to see how every project develops in the future.”

AIDC, Australia’s premier event for documentary and factual content servicing the screen and digital media industries, will take place from 28 February to 3 March 2021. Alice Burgin, CEO, AIDC said: “AIDC’s longevity can only be guaranteed by the quality of our future documentaries, and witnessing the six incredible pitches taking part in the New Perspectives Pitch Lab felt like absolute confirmation of a golden future for the sector. AIDC would like to congratulate all the participants at all stages and to thank Doc Society, AFTRS, Screen NSW, and Screen Australia for their involvement in bringing such a wonderful initiative to life. Long may it continue.”

The New Perspectives Pitch Lab encouraged applications from storytellers with projects that offer a rare insight into the under-represented and overlooked; stories from those who see more than what’s shown in the common zeitgeist; stories that break barriers and explore nuance over polarity.  The initiative was open to projects from across the non-fiction landscape – from observational, character-driven stories, to hybrid and essay films, to podcasts and series for television or online.