Santa Fe Independent Film Festival Opens with John Sayles’ ‘Go For Sisters’ and Honors Boxer Johnny Tapia

Santa Fe Independent Film Festival Opens with John Sayles' 'Go For Sisters' and Honors Boxer Johnny Tapia

Roger Ebert once wrote about the Toronto International Film
Festival, “In the beginning, its organizers were happy to sell out a 500-seat
theater.” 

The same can be said for The
Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, whose inaugural fest was financed with funds
won in a no-limit poker game, and welcomed 500 attendees. Now in its fifth
year, SFIFF has grown into the highest attended festival in the
state of New Mexico. 
SFIFF was born in 2009 when co-founders and filmmakers Jacques
Paisner and David Moore decided to start a festival honoring local filmmakers
and stories. In the five years since its inception,
SFIFF has grown exponentially each year, expanding its programming to include
national and international films. By 2012, SFIFF had grown to 5,000 attendees. This year, it is expected to hit 10,000. 
“When we started this five years ago, we had no idea
what it would become, and we certainly didn’t think it would be as
massive,” Paisner said on opening night.

SFIFF has since been embraced by local theaters and
businesses as a celebration of homegrown talent and emulates the early years of
independent film festivals like a young Sundance.

This year’s SFIFF opened Wednesday night with a screening of John Sayles’ “Go For Sisters” starring Yolonda Ross,
Lisa Gay Hamilton and Edward James Olmos. Shot under four weeks with a budget
well under $1 million, “Go For Sisters” is a return to Sayles’ signature guerrilla style film making.

“John Sayles is a modern day Cassavetes,” Paisner
said. “He’s doing something that embodies what The Santa Fe Film Festival
believes in.” Ross, known to wider audiences for her role on HBO’s
“Treme,” saw the film for the first time at SFIFF and loved that it
featured elements of a gritty action film, but in a more realistic way. “It’s a real actors movie,” Ross said. “It’s got action but it’s not a shoot ’em up, bang bang.”
Before “Go For Sisters” began, Ross also premiered
her short film “Breaking Night,” which follows a young woman who flees a
horrible home situation. Ross was inspired to write and direct the film because
of what she saw as a lack of significant roles for black women.

“I also wanted to see what I could do behind the camera,” she said. Ross is now in the process of writing a feature length film that she plans to direct.

SFIFF’s local focus was showcased Thursday night
at the sold out screening of Eddie Alcazar’s “Tapia,” the documentary
chronicling world champion boxer and New Mexico native Johnny Tapia. Tapia’s success was plagued by drug
addiction and depression stemming from the rape and murder of his mother when
he was 8 years old. The film marked its
New Mexican premiere to a sold out crowd at the 800 seat Lensic Theater.

Local
film fans, family members, boxing fans and citizens of Tapia’s native Albuquerque
packed the 82-year-old theater and gave the film a roaring applause. “The fans tonight were so amazing,” said producer
Andrea Monier.  “Obviously they were
very receptive to the film. They knew Johnny and it was so lovely to hear all
of their stories. They told me about the first time they met him and how they
saved the newspaper clippings.”
Tapia passed away only three weeks after shooting completed.
Monier and Alcazar are now working on a feature film based on Tapia’s earlier
years.
SFIFF continues tonight with the New Mexican premiere of
Sweetwater,” a 19th century set Western starring January
Jones and Ed Harris that was shot locally.
But New Mexico isn’t the only location that SFIFF
is honoring this year. The fest is also highlighting the city of Baltimore with
screenings of Lofty Nathan’s “12 O’clock Boys,” “I am Divine,”
a documentary about the famous drag queen, and John Waters performing his one
man show, “This Filthy World.” 
SFIFF closes Sunday evening with
“Ass Backwards,” a comedy starring Casey Wilson and June Diane
Raphael.

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