The documentary presents two families of waste sorters living in Montevideo, who are trying to get ahead after having lost their working tools: their horses.

While Daniel and Matías try, with the help of their union, to get their recently seized horse back, Marcelo and Alicia are trying to get a vehicle of their own so they can return the workhorse they have borrowed.

Having been cast out to the outskirts of Montevideo, we get to meet these endearing people in the privacy of their own homes and through their daily struggles. They gracefully get through bearing a very unfavorable reality, with great optimism and perseverance.

Director Sofia Betarte

Sofía Betarte was born in Sweden in 1982, in a Colombian-Uruguayan family. She spent part of her childhood in Stockholm and returned with her family to settle down in the small town of San José de Mayo in Uruguay. She travelled back and forth between Stockholm and Montevideo during her youth. She studied Audiovisual Communications in Montevideo and later continued her studies at the EICTV of San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba.

She works as a freelancer and is currently wrapping her debut film, the feature documentary “By the yoke”, which earned her the recognition of the ICAU 2014 Production Fund and the Montevideo Socio Audiovisual 2016. The film was also selected to be included in DocMontevideo´s 2017 Documentary Week.


The film stems from my desire to raise awareness on the issues waste sorters have to deal with. By following the individual stories of the leading characters I wanted to show the universal plight of how human beings face the adversity and loneliness when having to stand before the justice system. I particularly wanted to convey this perspective, tell the story pointing at the position of the leading characters, showing their resilience and solidarity, attributes rarely spoken of in the news when reporting about the neighborhoods where our film was shot. I didn´t want to shoot a documentary that presented the point of view of experts, nor did I want to portray their authorized opinions. Instead, I wanted to somehow capture this experience, through the human struggle of the leading characters in addition to the struggle of their trade union.

I first attended union meetings in 2013. I was initially interested in doing something related to the recycling and recovery work waste sorters do, which is an extremely undervalued occupation by a large part of society, but, at the same time, I wanted to show the campaign their trade union was undertaking.

When I shared my views with the union they immediately told me they were interested in shooting an institutional video for UCRUS (Union of Waste Sorters) that could truly represent them. Together with union authorities we began drafting a script straight away. From then on I began contributing with communications materials on the demonstrations they were undertaking and became gradually acquainted with the particular problems they had to face and I also became acquainted with the people who are now the leading characters of the film.

A very common problem they had to face was their horses being seized. I thought this was very paradoxical because they were their only working tools. When the trade union brought up the idea of reporting these events and try to put a stop to these seizures, I decided that this was what I wanted to address in the documentary and I wanted to record that journey: I wanted to show what happened the following months after their horses had been seized and show how those who later became the leading characters of the film were able to get through.

Using simple filmmaking equipment, it was mostly just me during the shoots. I tried to get close to the characters and, in fact, it was them who many times suggested which scenes to shoot. My experience during the shooting is reflected in the film. As I had initially expected the film to unfold in a different way, I was forced to adapt to unpredictability and film a process I did not know how it was going to develop.


We began working on “By the yoke” in late 2013. Our relationship with the Union of Waste Sorters (UCRUS) began that year and the idea to tell the daily stories of those who work in waste sorting in Montevideo in the form of a documentary began to take shape by the middle of the year. We shot from mid-2014 to late 2015, discovering the story of our documentary along with our leading characters. We began the postproduction stage by late 2015.

Our project was granted the ICAU 2014 Production Fund and Montevideo Socio Audiovisual 2016, it participated in the Production Lab at the Film and Human Rights Festival “Tenemos Que Ver” and had its avant premiere as the only Uruguayan film selected, during DocMontevideo´s 2017 Documentary Week.

“By the yoke” screenings include its theatrical premiere, in addition to an awareness campaign that comprises presentations and debates, workshops with high school students and open screenings with the communities concerned.

The aim of the film is to raise viewer awareness, showing the most vulnerable human side of such complex and urgent matter.