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Friendship triumphs in new film starring Black actresses

Fontayne (Yolonda Ross, pictured) receives bad news from her new parole officer  (and old friend) Bernice (Lisa Gay Hamilton). JOHN CASTILLO PHOTOS

Fontayne (Yolonda Ross, pictured) receives bad news from her new parole officer
(and old friend) Bernice (Lisa Gay Hamilton). JOHN CASTILLO PHOTOS

By Phreddy Wischusen
The Michigan Citizen

STERLING HEIGHTS  — On Dec. 13, “Go for Sisters,” a new film by John Sayles, two-time Oscar nominee and writer/director of “Lone Star,” “Passion Fish” and “Brother from Another Planet” will make its Detroit-area debut at the AMC Forum 30 (44681 Mound Rd., Sterling Heights). The film tells the story of two estranged  friends who have an opportunity to mend their relationship when Bernice (played by LisaGay Hamilton) becomes Fontayne’s (played by Yolonda Ross) parole officer.

Shortly thereafter, Bernice’s only son, Rodney, not only disappears but becomes a suspect in a murder. A desperately worried Bernice relies on Fontayne’s network of ex-convicts, street associates and former lovers to try and track down Rodney across the border in Mexico.

Rounding out the cast is Edward James Olmos (“Stand and Deliver,” “American Family”) in the role of Freddy Suarez, a disgraced former cop slowly going blind. Bernice and Fontayne rebuild their trust in one another as they survive one dangerous situation after another in the treacherous underworld of human trafficking across the U.S./Mexico border.

Yolonda Ross has already been nominated for a Film Independent Spirit Award for her portrayal of Fontayne. Playing Fontayne, she told the Michigan Citizen, taught her “we shouldn’t judge people from the outside. In Fontayne’s case — being out of prison, being a street person — you could have certain thoughts about her. But on the inside, she’s human like everybody else. She’s trying to do right … and she’s helping a friend.  Friendship is important in any stage of life.”

Fontayne’s complexity was essential to Ross’ participation in the film. “I personally want the work I put out there to be saying something,” Ross said. “A lot of the things I go up for are very human pieces, which I think is very important because we’re lacking that these days.” Her commitment to the exploring the tiny nuances that make each character and every person she meets truly human is not only her artistic practice, it’s socio-political, maybe even spiritual.

“Political wise, we hold what we feel and believe in inside of us, but once I become a character all that is gone, because I’m not me anymore; I’m that character,” says Ross.  Her growing body of work, playing independent, multi-dimensional female characters, attests to that commitment.

“There are a lot of stories out there where the women don’t have to be the guys’ arm candy, don’t have to be fighting each other —  all these parts we’ve already seen,” Ross says.  But, if movie-goers want to see more of those stories, “they have to support the movies that are out there and look for them.” She says small independent films simply don’t have the marketing budget that big Hollywood spectacles have. According to Ross, Sayles financed “Go for Sisters” himself.

“Go to the festivals, your local independent theaters, or the AMC theater that is showing these films for only a week. Follow the actors you like. Actors are the easiest people in the world to find, because we’re always trying to put ourselves out there. That keeps the movies in the theaters so they are relevant.”

Ross is currently finishing writing a screenplay and shooting a series she created. Fans can view “Breaking Night,” a short film written by, directed by and starring Yolonda Ross. at www.manfredmann.co.uk.

“Go for Sisters” runs Dec. 13-19 at AMC Forum 30.  Visit amctheatres.com for showtimes, or goforsistersmovie.com for more information.

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