Every Christmas, in the small Spanish farming town of Sodeto, the homemaker's association (a group representing homeowners in the town) goes door-to-door selling lottery tickets as a fundraiser for community events. In Spain, the special Christmas lottery is called El Gordo (The Fat One), because it delivers the single biggest payday of the year. It's also one of the world's oldest continuous lotteries, first held in 1812.
In 2011, the jackpot was up to $950 million, the biggest ever. Even so, some residents of Sodeto were reluctant to spring for the $26 ticket, since Spain was in the depths of a crippling economic recession plus a prolonged drought. But since the money went for a good cause, each of the 70 families in town chipped in, buying at least a portion of a ticket.
All except one man. Filmmaker Costis Mitsotakis lived outside of town in an old barn he was renovating and the homemaker's association ladies didn't make it out that year. No big deal, right? Wrong.
Defying the incredible odds, Sodeto hit the jackpot, and each of the village families walked away with prize money ranging from $130,000 on the low end to several millions on the high end. Farmers drove into town on their tractors and the mayor took to the streets with a bullhorn to congratulate the jubilant crowd.
Mitsotakis, quickly dubbed the world's unluckiest man, took it all in stride. He had moved to Sodeto eight years earlier to be with his girlfriend. The romance didn't last, but Mitsotakis fell in love with the town and decided to stay. He was happy for the villagers, humble farming families struggling with heavy debts, and even happier to find the perfect subject for a new documentary.