Jay Francisco Lopez is a 28-year-old Honduran-American who grew up in the Mission District of San Francisco, Calif. He grew up in an abusive home without a father, a story he says is not unique where he comes from, but he’s distinct in that he took the time to tell his story through film so that people could come together to relate, and then, ultimately, forgive.
Today, Lopez says he is a little overwhelmed that his very first film, “Sin Padre” — based on true events of his life — has made it to the 2012 San Francisco Latino Film Festival. And furthermore, that the Friday night world premiere is already sold out.
“Making this movie wasn’t easy,” says Lopez, who has also dabbled in acting. “A lot of people didn’t have faith in me, saying ‘You’re not going to make it…’ I started thinking, ‘Can I really do this?’ With my world premiere coming up, I realize that dreams do happen with faith and hope.”
He says when he started producing the film a year ago, he knew the it was going to be his life story, for his community.
“This movie is a healing process for myself,” says Lopez. “I still have my struggles, but I survived…I taught myself how to change a tire…I know now when I do have a child, how to be a good father. My inspiration is the kids out there that I want to save. I want people to inspire themselves.”
He says, aside from filmmaking, which he says happened spontaneously one day, he has been working with youth in the Mission District for nearly eight years. He says through running after school programs, he’s heard so many stories throughout the years about kids being jumped, being in gangs, foster care, or not having a father or mother.
“I’ve lived through it,” says the filmmaker who can relate to the youth. “Now at 28, I can forgive and let it go, but at that age, you’re stuck. Kids now are hiding more than before. A lot are not telling what’s going on at home. I want my kids to have a voice, and my movie inspired me to write the story.”
Lopez says he knew right away that Peruvian actor Javier Lezema would play him in the film.
“I was crying, because I saw myself in him,” says Lopez about Lezema’s powerful audition. “He was so amazing. He was from the Bay Area, he’s an up-and-coming actor.”
Mia Perez, he says, was not such an obvious decision to cast as his mother.
“My movie is her first film,” says Lopez. “She had no resume, no acting reel, just a head shot. She was a beautiful Latina, but not who I pictured Maria to be.”
After casting her to be the beauty salon owner, he says Perez hounded him for months to let her play the role of Maria. He declined her three times. Finally, when no one else fit his mom profile, he let her audition.
“When Mia came in, she killed it,” Lopez says about the clean-cut, put together business woman with highlights who was transitioning to be a full-time actress. “I told her to transform…I wanted her to be plain. No makeup.”
“I felt a lot of her pain and struggles sacrificing everything for her son,” says the 34-year-old Perez about how the character of Maria moved her. “I put concealer on myself to pale me out and darkened my eyes. It was important to show that her whole life was her son. She paid no attention to herself at all.”
Overall, Lopez is gushing with excitement over the performance of his all-Latino cast and by sharing his film, which he poured his heart and soul into.
“This film breaks boundaries,” says Lopez. “It’s a movie that everyone can relate to. I think as a human race, it’s hard for us to forgive.”
But that’s exactly the one thing that he wants the audience to walk out of the theater with.
“Forgiveness. One word only. Forgiveness,” says Lopez. “Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s ok, there’s a way…I’m still taking it in little by little. It’s just the beginning of the journey.”