As we enter the eighth year of the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival (SFIFF), it’s worth taking a moment to note just how far the annual event has come. Founded by siblings Jacques and Lisette Paisner and their friend David Moore in 2008, SFIFF has grown from a modest yet impressive slate of films to five powerhouse days jam-packed with 43 feature-length movies and 70 shorts screened across town at venues like the Jean Cocteau Cinema, Violet Crown, The Screen and more.

"We had a really big growth in 2012, which was the first year we had more than 5,000 attendees," Jacques says, "and then in 2014 and 2015 we had over 10,000, and we're expecting around the same again."

Attendees can catch anything from low-budget indies and documentaries to locally produced shorts and exciting features with big-name stars. SFIFF also boasts panels with industry vets, awards ceremonies plus plenty of parties and lots of other fun surprises. Since it would be impossible to see everything SFIFF has to offer, we caught up with the Paisners to get their don't-miss picks. Visit for a full schedule. (Alex De Vore)

No Light and No Land Anywhere

We reviewed this film in this very issue (see page 33), and both Paisners say it’s at the top of their list this year. The story of a young woman attempting to reconnect with her father after her mother dies,

No Light

comes to us from New Mexico-raised filmmaker Amber Sealey and was produced by

Me and You and Everyone We Know

scribe Miranda July. Early buzz says it’s a challenging film, but well worth the effort. “We’re super-stoked that [Amber Sealey] is going to be here,” Jacques says.


Maisie Crow

When it comes to abortion laws, the state of Mississippi is so far behind the times it's horrifying. Jackson is a portrait of the the sole remaining abortion clinic in the state. "It's really powerful to see what's happening with women's health down there," Lisette tells SFR. "In a lot of cases, what these healthcare providers have to legally tell their patients are lies—it's really scary, but it's also a beautiful story." Director Maisie Crow has worked in pretty much every behind-the-camera position, and her first full-length documentary is poised to be one of the most talked-about entries in the fest.

Hotel Dallas

“In Romania in the 1980s, the only TV show that they had was


, and it was used as this propaganda thing to show how evil capitalism is,” Jacques says. “But it totally backfired, and created all these fans of the show and of capitalism and this whole new subculture of young Romanian businessmen who loved the show.” For most Americans, this probably seems laughable, but

Hotel Dallas

examines the effect of the soap on the European nation’s men who embraced capitalism and the women who wanted desperately to emigrate to America.

My Life as a Film

Swiss filmmaker Eva Vitija- Scheidegger's father worked as a film and television director, so it's not entirely surprising that his home movies took a more professional tone than most people's. "She took all this footage he shot and cut it into a film, and it kind of crescendoes when [Eva] comes to Santa Fe, where her mom lives, to show her this rought cut of the movie," Jacques says. "They're like no home movies you've ever seen." My Life as a Film has been showing prominently at film festivals internationally, and we really love the local angle. For most of us, home movies are an embarrassing trip down memory lane; for Vitija-Scheidegger, it's not only a means of artistic expression, but a creative and meaningful chance to feel connected with her father and their shared career trajectory.

Tempest Storm

Say hello to the oldest burlesque performer in the country who, according to the filmmakers, is an American sex icon. Tempest Storm came up in the California Bay Area burlesque scene and reigned in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, but her line of work didn’t sit well with her family. Through archival footage and interviews, documentarian Nimisha Mukerji captures Tempest Storm looking back over a lifelong career and pondering the ramifications it had on her personal life as well as its effect on her family. “It’s about her redemption later on in her life where she still loves her job, but she’s dealing with the choices she made and trying to reconnect with her family,” Lisette tells SFR. “It’s a great story about a woman.”

Trespass Against Us

With reportedly stellar performances from Michael Fassbender (


) and Brendan Gleeson (

In Bruges



may feature the festival’s most immediately recognizable actors, and both Paisners insist it’s one of the best in this year’s lineup. Directed by British filmmaker Adam Smith (

Dr. Who, Skins

), we follow a family of Irish mobsters and one man’s attempts to distance himself from their criminal leanings. “It’s about these generations of this crime family in Ireland, and they live in this poor community, and it turns into this cat and mouse game with the police,” Lisette tells us. “It actually turns out to be heartwarming and all about family.”

Off The Rails

Darius McCollum is a man living with Asperger’s syndrome, and over the years a fascination with trains has led to more than 30 arrests for impersonating subway and railway conductors, booth clerks and repair workers. In director Adam Irving’s first major cinematic work, we follow McCollum and his incredible story. “Darius McCollum was obsessed with trains from the time he was a little kid, and he applied for a job with New York City transit several times, but they wouldn’t take him,” Jacques tells SFR. “So he keeps on getting arrested, but at some point, it’s realized that at no point has he been offered any kind of counseling. ... It’s a truly fascinating story.”