A feature documentary tracing the journey of a celebrated Argentine activist has won the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS), Doc Society, the Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC) and Screen NSW’s inaugural New Perspectives Pitch Lab.

Jayson McNamara’s Norita was selected amidst a group of six projects for the pitch training initiative, which is designed to support non-fiction talent with a social impact project in development or production.

Set in Argentina, the documentary tracks the transformation of Nora Cortiñas, following the kidnapping of her son by Argentina’s dictatorship in 1977.

During her 40 year search for him, Nora goes from a conservative housewife to a trailblazing activist and celebrated icon, inspiring a new generation to fight for their democracy.

In announcing their decision, the judging panel said it was “highly impressed” with the Norita team’s powerful pitch.

“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,” they said.

“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 creative team, including producers Rebecca Bennett and Daniel Joyce, will now participate in pitching opportunities at AIDC and receive complimentary all-access passes to the conference.

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 producers also have a strong track record in the documentary field, with Bennett’s Ghosthunter premiering at Sheffield Doc/Fest and winning the Sydney Film Festival documentary award, the AACTA Award for best editing, and the AWGIE for best writing.

Joyce’s most recent film, Martha: A Picture Story, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival.

He has also been involved in projects such as Meatwork, Big Bad Love, and Maddie Parry: Tough Jobs for the ABC (Australia).

Commenting on the win, the Norita filmmaking team said inspirational personal stories were needed, now more than ever, to “keep our heads up and hearts full”.

“We’re really happy to be bringing the story of Nora Cortiñas to AIDC at a time when activism and resistance is experiencing a resurgence,” he said.

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.

Wink said it had been “wonderful to witness” the stories taking shape.

“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 panelists,” she said.

“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.”

Participants from other projects will also be given the opportunity to access the AIDC program, with the conference to waive application fees for the audio-visual documentary projects wishing to apply to pitch in The Factory.

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