Backside paints an intimate portrait of the unseen “groom” workers that sustain the elite horse-racing industry, showing how wealth, class, and race come together in the United States.

Horse and groom traveling - Adalberto Espinosa, Rebecca Richart
Funding Initiative
Diversity Development Fund
Open Call
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Raúl O. Paz-Pastrana

Raúl is a Mexican filmmaker and cinematographer whose work explores themes of belonging, alienation, and "home." His film Border South (2019) screened at festivals worldwide. He is a Camargo Foundation Cassis France Artist Alumni, a BAVC MediaMaker Fellow, a Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellow, and a New America National Fellow.

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Patricia Alvarez Astacio

Patricia is a Puerto Rican anthropologist and filmmaker whose films have been screened globally at festivals like the Havana International Film Festival, The Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival, and the Boston Latino Film Festival. She was the director of the Society for Visual Anthropology Film and Media Festival.

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Gabriella Garcia-Pardo

Gabriella Garcia-Pardo is a Colombian-American documentary filmmaker based in Washington, D.C. She is producing her first feature film in Colombia, and has contributed cinematography to The Fourth Estate, The Infiltrators, Fruits of Labor, and The Vow. She is a Sundance Creative Producing Lab Fellow and an Impact Partners Producers Fellow.

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The Film

Backside delves into the lives of the unseen BIPOC workforce behind the Kentucky Derby. Following the lives of three backside workers throughout a racing-season, Backside draws attention to their labor and the close bonds grooms form with the horses they care for. 

For the last 20 years, Cristóbal has been the first to arrive at the backside of the racetrack. After greeting each horse in his barn, he starts the day cleaning stalls and rolling bandages. Both obsession and escape, he spends more time at the barn than with his wife and daughter, who is confined to a wheelchair after a car accident. 

Harold, known as the “preacher,” is one of the last African American backside workers. Stemming from slave labor, grooms were primarily African American until the workforce shifted to Latinx immigrants in the 1980s. In his old age, Harold couldn’t continue doing the physically taxing grooming work and now works as a hotwalker, warming up and cooling down his horses after exercise. On the other end of the backside, Bertila, one of the few women grooms, skillfully prepares a mare for a race. A clear leader, trainers refer to her as “la patrona” or “the boss,” while her peers look to her for guidance.  

These backside workers confront highs and lows throughout the year. Cristóbal throws himself into his work, confronting the grim prospect of outliving his child. Meanwhile, Harold contemplates retirement while Bertila shows us the successes and limitations of being a groom. Backside reveals human portraits of those who sustain the iconic Kentucky Derby.