York’s Jayson McNamara rubs shoulders with Hollywood elite with new doco Norita backed by Jane Fonda

Zach MargoliusThe West Australian
Two-time Academy Award winner Jane Fonda is backing WA filmmaker Jayson McNamara’s new project, Norita, as executive producer.
Camera IconTwo-time Academy Award winner Jane Fonda is backing WA filmmaker Jayson McNamara’s new project, Norita, as executive producer. Credit: Todd Williamson/NBC/Getty Images

The canola fields of York might be long in his rear-view mirror, but documentary filmmaker Jayson McNamara is on the highway to Hollywood success with his latest project, which is backed by two award-winning industry heavyweights.

McNamara is set to premiere his new feature, Norita, at Tuesday’s Dances with Films festival in Hollywood, which he hopes will make him a firmly established filmmaker.

The documentary’s executive producer is Academy Award-winning actor Jane Fonda, which boosts his chances.

Jayson McNamara with Gustavo Santaolalla.
Camera IconJayson McNamara with Gustavo Santaolalla. Credit: Jayson McNamara/Instagram

Norita follows the life of Nora Morales de Cortiñas — better known as Norita — and her pursuit of justice for her son, Gustavo, who was made to disappear by the brutal regime of Argentine dictator Jorge Rafael Videla in 1977.

It also chronicles her staunch activism in founding the human rights organisation Mothers of the Plaza de Maya as she inspires the next generation of women’s rights activists.

With industry darling Fonda on board, who herself has a long history in social justice and activism, it wasn’t long before legendary Argentine composer Gustavo Santaolalla — behind classics Brokeback Mountain and Babel — was recruited to write the score.

Known more recently for his work on the hit apocalyptic show The Last of Us, the Academy Award-winning composer has since lauded McNamara’s “love and strength” as they forged a close bond.

Through McNamara’s first feature, Messenger on a White Horse, Norita came about about the former military dictatorship.

It tells the story of Buenos Aires Herald editor Robert Cox, who fearlessly published stories about human rights violations during the regime when many wouldn’t.

Jayson McNamara on set.
Camera IconJayson McNamara on set. Credit: Supplied

That story forged a seven-year trail of dedicated production and research into Norita’s story, which McNamara says appealed to Fonda’s core values.

“She’s a very respected actor and entertainer, but she’s a social justice advocate and has a long history as an activist, and so just the parallels between her and our character was so strong,” McNamara said.

With Fonda and Santaolalla joined by producer Barbara Muschietti of IT and The Flash, the 35-year-old has a strong ensemble who have fallen in love with his personable nature and ability to reveal a truth not yet heard.

But to be successful in the notoriously cutthroat business, it’s important to have a few projects on the go and to keep building connections.

“I have a friend in Argentina whose grandmother was the Pope’s boss when he was 17 or 18,” he revealed.

A direct line to the Vatican opens up the possibility of a story on Pope Francis — a Buenos Aires-born chemist turned clergyman.

Brimming with humility and care — virtues that don’t always come naturally in the movie-making business — it’s no wonder the filmmaker has made friends in high places and left lasting impressions.

It’s in his blood.

Jayson McNamara
Camera IconJayson McNamara Credit: Supplied/Instagram

Recalling his earliest inspiration to become a storyteller, McNamara credits his dad’s travel tapes for sparking his curiosity about the world.

“He must have bought a VHS camera and started filming his trips around Italy,” he said.

“And so when he’d come home, he’d obviously sit down with us in the living room, turn on the videotapes, and you’d get that running commentary that goes into the little recorder on those cameras.

“I remember very specific things he’d comment on like this Yugoslav farm worker makes $2 a day, and we’re making $2 a sheep kind of thing.”

While living most of his twenties in South America and currently based in Sydney, the WA-born storyteller hopes to return home one day to where it all began.

It might just take the right story to get him here.

“I’ve gone out into the world and done all these things; I’m actually now more and more interested in York than I ever have been, which is just about perspective.”

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