Pamela Yates is the co-founder of Skylight Pictures, a company dedicated to making films and advanced digital media about
human rights and the quest for justice. Her previous film Granito: How to Nail
a Dictator, tells the story of how the genocide case against General Ríos Montt
in Guatemala was built. Her filmed footage from 1982 was used as
key evidence in the trial. (Press materials)
W&H: Please give us your description of the film
PY: Disruption is about millions of women marginalized by poverty in Latin America and the
promise of their efforts to make a better life for themselves and their
families. In Disruption I follow several of these women and a band of activist
economists who, working together, seem to have found a new approach to
eradicating poverty and inequality. But have they? I follow the film’s
protagonists as they team up with governments and global financial institutions
to re-shape public policies and initiate innovative programs on a massive
As millions of women participate in these programs in Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, we see new energies, ignored in conventional developmental
thinking, which propel many of them into active civic and political participation.
Can these strategies grow into a significant force for progressive change in
Latin America? Could they spread to other countries around the world,
catalyzing a global disruption of the status quo? This is the central drama of
W&H: What drew you to this story?
PY: Knowing that Latin America is
the most unequal continent in the world, I began to look at why the inequality
gap there was shrinking and ask why it was widening in the US. What were young
Latin Americans doing to reshape their continent? And I discovered that they
were imagining and trying to create a world without the extremes of wealth and
poverty, a world where women are a driving political force. What a story!
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the
PY: Disruption was a different and difficult film for me, because I had to take complex
economic ideas and transform them into cinematically engaging scenes. Weaving
the lives of women in poverty, while developing economic and political ideas
throughout the narrative arc of the film, is what makes the story
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they
are leaving the theater?
PY: Disruption poses a challenge to the global human-rights movement to rethink how economic
rights can be made a significant force in development through strategies that
relate more effectively to potential allies in government and the private
sector. I believe that those who believe in the power of human rights must find
new ways to address economic injustice — and on a scale commensurate with the
millions of people around the world that are mired in poverty.
W&H: What advice do you have for other female
PY: Give ‘em hell! Take Action! And
use the beauty and power of cinematic storytelling to do so.
W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about you and
PY: That I only make political
films denouncing human-rights atrocities, even though all of my films
are about people fighting for their rights and their quest for justice. My
films aren’t depressing, are very human, and always offer a way forward. Disruption explores different ideas and solutions to solving economic problems
and guaranteeing economic rights, since inequality and poverty are so often at the
roots of the conflicts that lead to human-rights atrocities.
W&H: How did you get your film funded?
long-term commitment of the Ford Foundation to build financial citizenship made Disruption possible via JustFilms, and the Gucci
Tribeca Documentary Fund’s Spotlighting Women Documentary Award honored and
supported my ideas as well.
W&H: Name your favorite women directed film and why.
PY: Heddy Honigmann’s El Olvido
(“The Forgetting”) for its nuanced exploration into historical memory via
compellingly honest storytelling. But it is so hard to name just one, since
there are so many wonderful, unsung women directors doing exceptionally