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Local filmmakers to screen ‘Gringa’ at Wheeler Opera House

Co-directors and co-producers, E.J. Foerster and Mary Eng on the set of their film "Gringa."
Courtesy Momentum Films

Longtime local E.J. Foerster has spent his career as an assistant director and second-unit director on feature films, performing all the tasks the director doesn’t want to do on set, gaining the skills he needed to step into the top role of his own film someday.

“I’ve been a sous chef kind of, you know, in the business, working behind the main director and kind of delivering his vision for so many years that, at a certain point, it’s time to be the captain of ship,” he said.

Now, that dream has come true with Gringa, a feature film he co-produced and co-directed with Snowmass-based filmmaker Mary Eng, written by long-time collaborator Patrick Hasburgh, who wrote and directed the 1993 film Aspen Extreme, starring Paul Gross, Peter Berg, and Finola Hughes — and on which Foerster was a producer and second-unit director.



Over two decades later, he was taken by “the greatest story never told” that Hasburgh had written after he relocated from Aspen to Mexico with his wife and children, and so they decided to turn that story into the screenplay that would become Gringa.

 “I said, ‘Hey, let’s do this movie, and let’s collaborate and get it done.’ And, we basically produced directed and posted the entire thing — from A to Z, we did the whole thing, you know, kind of managed that all the way through,” said Foerster.




E.J. Foerster and Mary Eng on the Mexico set of Gringa.
Courtesy Momentum Films

Six years and a pandemic later, they finished the film and began taking it to festivals in September 2022 and are set to premiere it locally at the Wheeler Opera House on Dec. 27 at 7 p.m.

Gringa stars Steve Zahn (White Lotus), Jess Gabor (Shameless), Judy Greer (Halloween Ends), Roselyn Sanchez (Fantasy Island), and Jorge A. Jimenez (Narcos). It’s a story about a young American girl who goes to Nayarit, Mexico, in search of her absentee father (Steve Zahn) “a washed-up pro soccer star who ran away to hide from his parental responsibilities, a bad marriage, and the stink of failure.”

Actor Steve Zahn stars in Gringa.
Courtesy Momentum Films

Their journey to reconciliation is a story of hope and new beginnings, which resonated with Foerster and Eng.

“It’s a picture that crosses all borders, but that doesn’t matter,” Eng explained. “A young girl goes from the U.S. to Mexico to find a father she’s never known, and there are borders in real life that she crosses, and there’s, you know, cultural differences. But, in the end, all that doesn’t matter — where you’re from or who you are. We all deal with the same universal issues.”

Actor Jess Gabor stars as a teen who goes to Mexico in search of her father in Gringa.
Courtesy Momentum Films

One of the more interesting choices they made was the exclusion of English subtitles in Spanish language scenes, noting they both wanted to include the Latino population in the valley in a way that felt authentic and welcoming, while giving the non-Spanish speakers the same experience as the English-speaking protagonist in the film, stressing this is a film for everyone.

“We made we made a very solid choice to not have subtitles in our film. We spent a lot of time and thought, really bringing the reality of what it might be like to be in Mexico to the screens,” said Foerster.

Gringa will have its Aspen premiers on Dec 27 at The Wheeler Opera House.
Courtesy Momentum Films

He and Eng premiered their film at the Breckenridge Film Festival, which earned them first place in the Audience Award category, and then screened and won the Kick Butt Award at Lady Filmmakers Film Festival. They said they are looking forward to showing the film to their friends and family in Aspen, as well as giving back to the community they love.

The premiere will benefit the JFMAF/JAS Music Arts Scholarship Fund. This local non-profit provides scholarships and mentorships to graduating high-school seniors continuing their education and show promise in music and sound. The fund was founded in 2014, and over 40 scholarships have been awarded to graduating seniors in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley.

“One of the overarching themes of the movie, for me, is you must participate in your own rescue. Sometimes you make mistakes in your life, and you never recover from that. But, if you do get a second chance, you know, there can be a lot of healing and, you know, a lot of forgiveness, and things can be much better,” Foerster said.

Tickets ($25) are on-sale now and can be purchased at http://www.aspenshowtix.com or at the Wheeler Opera House box office.

For more information on the JFMAF/JAS Music Arts Fund and upcoming events: http://www.jakefoersterfund.org.

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